Having been a Type A person most of my life, I can say this topic has been a struggle for me. I have always had more than my share of energy, drive and enthusiasm for a project. Having been “born this way” I seem to find a way to do laundry while I sit down for a minute, or sweep the floor while everyone preps for bed. I was obsessed with being busy. I’m now at the age where I can at least observe my obsession with a critical eye and see the need for truly “unplugged time.” There are many forms of down time, whether its a bit of meditation, a quiet bath, gentle exercise or sleep, all are important to our overall health.
I expect for some of you reading this down time may be an issue, so let’s start with what happens during our most important down time, sleep. For some, sleep comes naturally and unadulterated, while for others it is a dance, with bad music, bad partners, and a dance floor covered in mud. It can be hard to find the rhythm. Perhaps small children are in your life right now, or a partner who snores, or you travel for your job, or perhaps you just don’t know why! It happens! Sometimes our sleep issues are things we don’t think could contribute like a poor diet, improper digestion, a Rx side effect, chronic adrenal stress (from caring for a loved one, a job you don’t love, a difficult personal situation) or hormone disruption. Hormone disruption is defined as menopause, birth control, blood sugar issues, stress, etc. Needless to say, there are a multitude of reasons why sleep may evade us.
Is Sleep Really that Important to our Health?
Did you know that recent research has shown that there is a specific kind of lymph in the brain called glymph? Think of the lymphatic system as the sewer system of the body, it follows our circulatory system so goes everywhere we have blood, and picks up the trash we made as a result of our daily cellular processes. The glymphatic system is a waste clearance pathway specifically for the central nervous system; the brain and spinal cord. Glymph cleans up all our brain’s trash during our sleep cycles. It ONLY works when you sleep. It also has other important functions such as the distribution of glucose, neurotransmitters, fats and amino acids, all vital for a properly functioning brain.
Recent studies indicate a failure of the glymphatic system (poor sleep) may contribute to pathology in neurodegenerative disorders (think Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Dementia), brain trauma, and stroke (1 Science Daily 2/27/19). The deeper the sleep the better, so if you have a sleep issue it’s important to get to the underlying cause and fix it, not just cover it up with a prescription. Drinking plenty of water, regular exercise, and getting enough good sleep are all essential to a well functioning glymphatic system.
Many of us suffer from being wired and tired. That means that we are up at 6am take care of our daily responsibilities and finally fall into bed by 11pm or midnight. Maybe we found time to go to the gym and do some strenuous cardio or run a few miles (hard on the adrenals by the way if they are not amazing) and we put that last load of laundry in just before crashing. Now you’re laying there in bed pondering all the things you didn’t get done, or need to do tomorrow, but, most importantly, you’re not sleeping! So tragic! All you need is sleep, but it doesn’t come. We need to find the time to relax, to be calm and introspective.
Some say you have to schedule it in, while others say you need to be more spontaneous about it. I have found that a little of both is needed. Planning personal time into your week, whether its a 15 minute period of meditation at the start or end of your day, a yoga class, a daily commune with nature, a set time to read, etc., is a necessary part of your productive lifestyle. As for the spontaneous part, be on the lookout for opportunities, deviations from the plan that would include some “down time.”
Here’s a couple of ideas for spontaneous moments:
- You need to go to the post office for stamps, the grocery store, and stop at the pet store for dog food. Instead of 3 stops, get your stamps at the grocery store and while at the pet store stop and look at the fish, kittens or puppies for a minute or two. Spend a couple of minutes with a smile on your face, with stress free, purposeful calm.
- You take the kids to practice and the usual routine is you sit and chat with the other parents. While this can be considered down time, only you can say if that’s true. Is it really? Or is it just part of the problem? Change it if needed. You’ll be glad you did, especially if you have limited “me” time. Quality time management is so important!
Its easy to get distracted from our mission, and before you know it an hour has passed and now we are behind. The most common place for this to occur is getting sucked into social media or TV. Purposeful calm is just that, purposeful. Intentional distraction means you’re still in control and it’s not mindless deviation. So whether its planned down time or spontaneous purposeful calm, enjoy the benefits of refueling your spirit, your body, your mind.
Quality down time can also benefit our adrenal glands, thyroid, and digestive system. For some, quality down time needs to look like a 20-30 minute nap. Simply getting horizontal can boost adrenal function for the rest of the day. This is especially important for those who don’t sleep well. You don’t even have to go to sleep, just set an alarm, listen to something relaxing, and give the adrenals a break from all the hard work they do. Remember, stressed out adrenals can keep you awake at night by making too much cortisol, so be nice to them!
The act of self-care has never been more important with our busy lifestyles. Having lived out of the country in slower paced environments I can tell you there is benefit to stepping out of the fast lane from time to time and replenishing yourself. Discover what fits into your routine, where can you slow down and replenish? Your body will thank you for it. And remember, quality down time doesn’t have to be time spent by yourself. Many people love spending quality time with family members and friends.
Make time to call that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with, but never see. Have lunch with a sibling or significant other. Host a movie night. Plan a vacation! The options are endless and should be something that brings YOU joy and rejuvenation.
To finish today, I want to offer some practical solutions to improve your sleep.
Solutions for Improving your Health through Standard Process and MediHerb
If sleep is an issue you must first identify the cause…
- If a snoring partner, you know what you need to do. Move them or you. Eliminating allergens, starting a detox program, and losing weight can all help with snoring.
- If you have a hormone issue you may need to balance them with lifestyle changes, herbs or start a detox program. Lab and saliva test can help us determine if hormones are keeping you from sleeping.
- If you have stress or anxiety there are whole food supplements and herbs that can be helpful while you establish a healthier lifestyle and/or wean off anti-anxiety meds. Some examples are:
- Adrenal Complex
- Ashwaganda Complex
- Adrenal Tonic
- Dessicated Adrenal
To work with me on a plan specific to your needs and concerns, call my office to schedule an appointment!
Dr. Virginia S. Irby D.C.,DABCO, ACN
2371 Iron Point Rd. Ste. 130
Folsom, CA 95630