Have you ever noticed that when the seasons change, sleep patterns change?
A lot of scientific study has gone into the effects of getting less than the eight hours of sleep recommended for optimum health.
Research in Norway found that not getting enough sleep is linked to an increase in body mass index (BMI) and obesity. This is because shortened sleep hours changes the levels of hormones in the brain that regulate hunger and how much to eat.
Other studies have found that a lack of restful sleep can weaken the immune system, drive blood pressure to escalate, aggravate underlying health issues, and have a worsening effect on chronic health conditions.
After a night of lost sleep, a person will need two nights of “sleep recovery” that are nine hours in length each in order to recover performance, according to researchers at the Centre for Sleep Research at the University of South Australia.
When “recovery sleep” is less than nine hours in duration, it is insufficient to restore function, the study found, and a person’s function will stabilize at a level below their optimum performance.
“We may have underestimated the impact of sleep loss and/or overestimated the restorative value of subsequent sleep,” wrote the researchers who published their study in the Journal of Sleep Research.
Even the moon can have an effect on sleep.
In the journal Nature it was reported that many animals have an internal rhythm synchronic to the moon, and working alongside the circadian rhythm.
Changes in the circadian rhythm and circalunar “clocks” that regulate body functions can induce sleep pattern disruptions. In one study, men slept nearly an hour less than women did during a full moon, according to researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
While proving we have a circalunar rhythm is difficult for researchers, it’s still understood and accepted that the full moon affects behavior (think of the word “lunatic”).
A change in seasons will also affect sleep because the levels of light influence the brain’s ability to produce the sleep hormone melatonin. This could mean that a change in seasons might be a good time to evaluate sleep habits, and if necessary, change routines to induce nights of restful sleep.
Take a walk
The Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 — c. 370 BC) is thought of as the founder of medicine. He wasn’t compounding pharmaceutical medications in an early primitive pharmacy somewhere in the Mediterranean, but rather, the best medicine he said he could ever give anyone was to tell them to simply “walk.”
The leisure activity of walking is a healthy, safe, inexpensive, and simple means of improving sleep, according to researchers at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Exercise Science.
Seated floor stretches can improve sleep, according to researchers at Harvard, who studied how yoga affects sleep. Yoga can be simple stretches like the seated spinal twist or the head-to-knee forward bend. Stretch a little and get into the seated Cow Face Pose or the Half Lord of the Fishes Pose.
For more of these poses go to http://www.yogajournal.com/category/poses/types/seated-twists/
Make a bath
The ancient Greeks were famous for their bath houses but you don’t have to bathe publicly like Hippocrates to induce a night of restful sleep.
Magnesium (Epsom salt) added to a warm bath will relax muscles and is easily absorbed into the skin where the cells will regulate the amount of magnesium needed by the body. And according to some doctors, people with a magnesium deficiency will generally have a more difficult time falling asleep than others. The essential oil of lavender is commonly known to promote deep relaxation and is sometimes used in combination with Epsom salt.
Other simple ways to improve sleep, according to experts, are to have well-laundered sheets, open a window, listen to relaxation music, keep a bedside journal, and create your own space.
Creating your own space for peace and quiet, or meditation, will clear the mind, according to participants in the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard. Which leads to more restful sleep—not tossing and turning and just thinking about sleep.
A full explanation on meditation can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/h4abmya
Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton