Sleep or not to sleep and when to sleep...
Updated: Apr 19, 2019
You have probably heard it many times before that you should make sure that your children go to sleep on time. But do you know why?
Have you had enough of your children going to bed too late, waking up late in the morning, looking and feeling tired and not doing their morning routine in a timely manner, having to rush through the morning with children who are still half asleep hoping they will fully wake up by the time you drop them off at school?
How would you feel if you didn't have to deal with all this extra stress every day? Would you be happier, more relaxed, would you be able to be in the present moment instead of worrying about being late? Would you be able to enjoy each other’s company more?
Do you know what is happening in the body when you do go to bed late and the down flow effect of that?
We all have a special biological system called circadian rhythm. This circadian rhythm is also found in all plants and animals. This internal timing device is logically synchronised with the cycle of day & night. Due to this many of our body’s systems are calibrated to the appearance & disappearance of natural light. It is a 24 hour biological wake - sleep cycle. This biological rhythm can influence basic bodily functions like hormone release (melatonin and cortisol which controls sleep), body temperature, hunger and thirst to name a few. When it doesn't function optimally it can create sleeping disorders, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, poor concentration, memory issues and much more.
As we are NOT nocturnal animals we should go to bed when the sun goes down and wake up when the sun rises. While human evolution allowed us to enjoy the discovery and all the benefit and convenience of electricity, electronic devices, if we don’t use if in a mindful way it can create lots of stress in our lives. Living in harmony with nature and the universal laws shouldn’t just be the domain of the hippie, if you want to harness the power of nature and live a healthy life you should understand and respect it’s laws and rules and live according to it. In this case it means going to bed on time.
How does it work?
The main regulator of the circadian rhythm is the Hypothalamus. The Hypothalamus (part of the brain) is responsible for connecting the endocrine system to the nervous system. There is a group of nerves cells in the Hypothalamus called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) which are connected to the optic nerve allowing SCN to respond to light & dark. The lightness / darkness intake through the retina of the eye is the cue for our biological clock. When the sun goes down the darkness is detected through our eyes and optic nerve. These in turn are connected to the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus in our Hypothalamus. Information from here is sent to the pineal gland in the brain to start secreting melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a major role in our natural sleep - wake cycle; it is the hormone that brings on sleepiness, lowers your body temperature and helps you to drop off to sleep. Our melatonin level should be the highest in the middle of the night and cortisol should be the lowest.
Cortisol is a long term stress hormone that plays a very important role in the body and we can’t live without it. But when cortisol level is high the system is out of balance and it has a far reaching effect. It can affect how our DNA is being coded and make you susceptible to genetic diseases. As goes the saying: Its genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger. Cortisol and melatonin are a bit like a sea saw, when one’s level is high the other one is low and via versa. So to help your melatonin level to rise at night, and help you to go to sleep easily and on time, you should focus on doing things that help your melatonin level to rise and your cortisol level to lower.
It's the opposite in the morning. Do you know anyone who stays up late at night, can't get out of bed in the morning and when s/he finally does, s/he is not really awake properly until they had that first cup of coffee with probably sugar? It is because their cortisol level is still low and their melatonin level is still high, it is out of balance in relation to the our day & night cycle and they are trying to raise their cortisol level by drinking tea or coffee to activate the adrenal glands.
What disturbs our melatonin level rising in the evening?
- LIGHT: television, iPad's, computers, laptops, street lights, LED lights for bedside alarm clock, night lights in the bedroom and all similar devices.
- And everything listed below that keeps cortisol level high
Teachers – please encourage parents to read to their children at night instead of giving them the iPad before sleep?
What affects our cortisol level staying high?
- Stress: physical stress like pain, emotional stress, relationship stress, financial, nutritional etc.
- Lack of exercise
- Sugar consumption
- Too much protein late at night
- Snacks at night ( raises insulin level too high)
- Not enough vegetables
So what should you or your children do to get a good sleep and wake up with full of energy ready to tackle the next day? Apart from following the list above here are a few hints:
-Turn lights down and turn all electronic devises off at least 30 – 60min before sleep time,
-Have a relaxing bath with Epson salt and calming essential oils,
-Read a calming book,
-Write your diary,
-Listen to relaxing music,
-Do a guided meditation,
-Or just lie in bed and talk to your children in the dark for a few minutes,
-Human touch also lowers cortisol level (no wonder children need a cuddle when they hurt themselves)
If you realise that your children have been going to bed too late and you would like to bring bed time forward, can I please suggest that you do this incrementally, maybe 10mins earlier each day or every second day.
How can you tell if you children are going to bed too late???
By observing their behaviour in the morning!
There are of course other factors that contribute to sleep disturbance, tiredness and fatigue. It could be several different issues like an imbalance in the part of the brain that filters noise, the liver meridian (that is responsible for anabolism and catabolism), your general timing of your body, toxicity level, nutritional deficiencies, thyroid issues, immune system challenges, insulin levels, and survival stress and you may seek health practitioners in relation to them but putting your children to bed on time is the first step towards better health.
Kinesiology is a stress releasing modality that is very gentle and effective and brings great awareness to the client. We all experience stress at a physical, emotional, nutritional, energetic, mental and/or financial level at some point in our lives. Question is, do you choose to accumulate it and compensate for it or do you want to release it and resolve it?