Anything but that.. The magical properties of sleep
Ok, I’ll admit it and will chime in with my 2 cents worth -it has not been the best of summers. We have had so much rain I have finally admitted defeat and will let the slugs eat the rest of the vegetables in my garden. They can have them. May all beings be happy and nourished!
One of the themes I hear most often right now is that we are just not ready for autumn. It seems we are of one accord and feel that we did not get summer so how could we possibly be ready for the leaves to drop off the trees and begin preparing for winter. Like it or not, fall is here and with it the effects of changing seasons.
As a massage therapist one of the reasons people come to see me is that they have injured themselves and are seeking treatment. As I work on the injury they are eager to find out what they can do to speed up recovery. My favorite reply centres around getting more rest. The immediate response to this is “yes of course” but what can I really do. You know… exercises or stretches, ice or heat or bath salts….maybe taping or a brace. Yes all these things can be helpful but during times when our minds and bodies are dealing with stress, sleep can make a big difference. Although my clients are open to this idea, there is a bit of dismissal of this simple remedy. Anything but that…we want something difficult to do. So lets take a look at the healing benefits of sleep.
When our body is going through changes, is under more stress or is recovering from an injury, we need more sleep. Sleep is a magical remedy. It takes very little effort but has such wide reaching affects.
Benefits of Sleep
- Sleep improves our immune system -If you’re anything like me one of the aspects of winter that I am not looking forward to is cold and flu season. I have young children in school and they are exposed to a lot of viruses. Just giving our kids a bit more time of rest and sleep is one of our strategies for dealing with this reality. An article from the Myao Clinic discusses the benefits of rest for our immune system.
“During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.” Mayo Clinic – Lack of sleep -Can it make your sick?
2. Sleep helps us be more aware of our body/mind health. When we are well rested, we are operating at a more optimum level. We have a greater capacity to know when we are pushing ourselves too much and overextending ourselves. When we are too busy and rushed it is much more difficult to take a mental and physical inventory of our well being. When we are more rested we have the ability to sense when we are beginning to get sick and then make adjustments to our schedules. When we can take time to rest, we can recover before we get sick.
3. If you’ve ever felt that your muscles are tight and can’t relax you’re in for a treat. Sleep is the time when we truly relax and release the tension in our muscles. Chronic muscle tension goes hand in hand with a life that is too busy. Often we just don’t have time to relax.
“Along with dietary protein to aid in muscle repair and new muscle growth, your body produces its own muscle-building hormones while you sleep, including human growth hormone (HGH). During the N3 stage of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, blood flow to your muscles increases, and tissue growth and repair occurs. During REM sleep, the muscles relax, which can help relieve tension and reduce symptoms of certain types of chronic pain. In fact, many of the critical restorative functions in the body—like tissue repair and muscle growth—occur mostly or only during sleep.” Sleep.org -How Sleep Adds Muscle.
All in all one of the best things we can do to boost our immune system and deal with stress is to allow ourselves to enjoy a little extra sleep.