No big surprise: sleep is good for you. While most of us know that intuitively to be true, did you know that one of the reasons it’s true is that we do most of our healing while we’re asleep? And that kids do most of their growing while asleep? [It might really be true when you tell your niece: “holy cow, it’s like you shot up overnight!”] Both of these – healing and growing – occur at least partially under the influence of growth hormone, which is released into your body in highest concentration – you guessed it – while you sleep.
So when I hear a patient, who has come in for other concerns, mention almost offhandedly that they never sleep through the night, I immediately ratchet that issue up the priority list. I gotta get you sleeping so your body can heal itself.
Often a sleep problem can be due to a dysregulation of the daily circadian rhythms of secretion between the hormones cortisol (supposed to be high in the morning, and low at night) and melatonin (which is high at night and helps you stay asleep). Generally this comes as the result of a long-term experience of stress, keeping cortisol inappropriately high. If that’s what’s happening for you, do come in so we can get you on some herbs that tone the adrenal glands and get them working correctly.
However, for many of us, it’s as simple as beginning to wear a sleep mask! Melatonin secretion is controlled by darkness. Most of us, especially in the city or suburbs, are exposed to “light pollution” and are not sleeping in total darkness. It’s actually the light that filters in through your closed eyelids that influences the amount of melatonin secretion! Usually our curtains or blinds let city light in around the edges (though if you’re interested, I will gladly refer you to someone who can custom-install blackout blinds in your bedroom). If, with all the lights out and after your eyes have adjusted you can still see your hand when you hold it up in front of you, your room isn’t dark enough.
After trying several uncomfortable sleep masks, I have finally found one I find comfortable enough and dark enough. I’m not carrying it in my dispensary, but you can order it directly at www.hibermate.com. Get the black one – the goal is to maximize darkness, not to match your nightie.
So start there, with sleeping in total darkness. At least half of you reading this will need to go no farther. If you need additional support, you know where to find me.
With best wishes for your luminous good health,
Dr. Deborah Epstein