Sleep affects our brain function, our immune function, our emotions and even our weight. Implementing a sleep schedule, avoiding stimulants and investing in quality bedding are among the natural ways people can get the best quality sleep.
What role does sleep play in our overall health and wellness?
Dr. Ken Freedman: Liz, a good night’s sleep is incredibly important for health. I think a lot of people play it down. In fact, it is just as important as eating healthy and exercising, but unfortunately, the western environment’s interfering with natural sleep patterns. People now are sleeping a lot less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well. There is a lot of reasons why good sleep is important. It improves brain function. It affects your emotions and social interactions. Good sleep can maximize your athletic performance. It improves your immune function. Proper sleep helps support having a healthier weight. Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories. Sleep affects your glucose metabolism and Type II diabetes risk.
Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke. Do you know people who are depressed tend not to sleep well? It is linked to depression. Poor sleep is also linked to increased systemic inflammation.
How many hours of uninterrupted sleep should adults be getting?
Dr. Ken Freedman: Well, most experts feel about seven to eight hours is a good guide, but we’re all snowflakes. Everybody is different, and I think based upon what’s going on in your level of health, how much stress you have in your life, your occupation, there are other factors that may change that one way or another.
Does it matter what time you go to bed and wake up?
Dr. Ken Freedman: At one time people felt that it did, but there’s new research that’s been coming out that says that what time you go to bed and wake up is less important. What is more important is that you’re on a schedule that you’re doing consistently. So, you’re going to bed about the same time and awakening about the same time and doing it seven days a week, that’s really one of the most important factors in having a better-quality night’s sleep.
Does sleep position matter? Is it better to sleep on your back, and what kind of pillow is best?
Dr. Ken Freedman: Sleep position does matter, Liz. The two best positions to sleep in would be on your back or on your side. The type of pillow … well, there’s so many different types of pillows that are out there. If you’re sleeping on your back, you might not need a pillow at all. If you’re sleeping on your side, you definitely will. Most people are comfortable putting a pillow underneath them if they’re on their back or on their side. If you’re sleeping on your side, you want to sleep with a pillow that is thick enough to keep your head in a neutral position. In other words, where the neck is in the same alignment as the mid and lower back. If you’re sleeping on your back, you want the pillow not just underneath your head, you want it underneath your head and shoulders. Placing the pillow underneath your head is going to flex your head up onto your chest and strain the neck and irritate the nerves.
That is very important because the position that you sleep in will determine the alignment of your spine, and the alignment of your spine determines how well energy flows between your brain and your body. Should your spine go out of alignment and irritate the nerves, it impairs the flow of energy and as a result, your body is more susceptible to injury, disease and problems and it definitely doesn’t perform as well as it could work with proper energy flow. In addition to being under regular chiropractic care to be checked to see if you have those nerve interferences and having them corrected, it is very important to invest in a good mattress and sleep in a position that promotes better sleep.
Another trick that people do if they are side sleepers is they place a pillow between their knees, which helps take some of the pressure off their hips.
What are some natural approaches to getting to sleep easier and waking up refreshed?
Dr. Ken Freedman: Well, as I had spoken to you earlier, consistent sleep and wake times are very important. Investing in a good mattress and pillow. Before you buy a mattress, since it is a pretty substantial investment, you want to make sure that there is a decent return policy. Some places will offer you anywhere from one to three months to be able to sleep on a mattress and be able to return it without penalty. That’s a good idea if it doesn’t work out. You need a room that is very dark, so get room darkening shades. Get rid of electronic equipment that would cause you to have lights that would be distracting and affect your sleep cycle. And avoid stimulants after dinner. Stay away from caffeine or stimulants that are in chocolate because chemically that is going to interfere with your body and your ability to be able to get proper rest.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Ken Freedman, visit www.freedmanchiropracticcenter.com or call (732) 254-6011 to schedule an appointment.