Maybe All We Need Is Sleep

If you want your body to heal and your brain to reset, try these tips for better sleep
BY Donna Martelli TIMEMay 1, 2022 PRINT

According to the American Sleep Labs,  50 million to 70 million U.S. adults struggle with sleep. Are you one of them?

Having been a professional ballet dancer, instructor, and personal trainer, my body has suffered some abuse from overwork. In my late 60s, I continue to teach barre, stretch, pilates, and ballet classes, and I demonstrate everything full out because I love it so much.

Unfortunately, the doc says I have worn out my lumbar spine. I certainly won’t let that stop me though. I have strong supporting muscles, but sometimes that is not enough.

For muscle fatigue and pain, I do Epsom salt baths and apply a heating pad, ice, you name it, but what mainly does it for me is sleep. When I say “sleep,” I don’t mean a 15-minute or even a 3-hour nap. I am talking about 8 to 10 hours of profound, restorative sleep.

Working out physically (which must be a part of your healthy life) tears down your muscles. It is during times of rest that they are repairing and building. When you enjoy that long, deep sleep, not only are your muscles rebuilding, but your entire body is healing. But not all sleep is equally restful, so just getting the recommended number of hours of sleep is not necessarily enough.

Your mind is probably overactive; you go over your day, what you did, what you didn’t do, what you should have done, what you will do tomorrow. Racing thoughts at bedtime, wakeful and restless nights, or any other sleep issues hinder you from deep restorative sleep, where rebuilding and healing occur.

Although you might be resting for 8 to 10 hours, that doesn’t mean you’re sleeping soundly, especially if you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

Then what happens when you wake up the following day? I am sure you are familiar with this phenomenon: if you have not spent your night in the right kind of sleep or the correct amount of time sleeping, you find yourself in a crummy cycle:

  • You wake up sluggishly.
  • You drag yourself through the day.
  • You’re forced to rely on caffeine and sugar to give you fake jolts of energy.
  • After these give you a quick pick-up, you soon crash.
  • Your brain is foggy, you are forgetful, and you can’t focus on anything.
  • You cannot make a dent in your to-do list and that, in itself, causes anxiety.
  • You visually begin to age more rapidly: dark, puffy eyes, saggy skin, and belly fat.
  • Your posture and face are downcast.
  • You want to go home and get in bed.

Lousy sleep makes for poor quality of life. Indeed, I am not telling you anything you don’t know.

Writing for Healthy Cell, Nobel-nominated doctor Vincent C. Giampapa tells us about four stages of sleep:

  • Stage 1 non-REM sleep is the changeover from wakefulness to sleep.
  • Stage 2 non-REM sleep is a period of light sleep before you enter deeper sleep.
  • Stage 3 non-REM sleep is the period of deep sleep that you need to feel refreshed in the morning.
  • REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. This is where dreaming takes place.

During deep sleep (stage 3 and REM,) your cells repair and rebuild, and hormones are secreted to promote bone and muscle growth. Your body also uses deep sleep to strengthen your immune system so you can fight off illness and infection. How amazing it is that God so wonderfully made our bodies.

Surely you want energy, joy, and focus, but not brain fog or feeling like you haven’t got the power for the task at hand. You want your metabolism to work efficiently, like when you were in your teens, and you want a solid immune system. So, what can help?

I am not a doctor, so I am not offering any medical advice, just gems gained from my experience. Here are some things that will help you get better sleep:

  • Work out until you are physically tired.
  • Work out early in the day for energy all day and tiredness when it’s time to go to bed.
  • Turmeric, ashwagandha, and CBD oil can help some people.
  • Have a relaxing bath before bed. Use Epsom salts and baking soda in the water for muscle relaxation.
  • Melatonin may help.
  • Pray and lay down those cares.

If you still can’t get the restful sleep that you need, your physician can offer drug or supplement alternatives for your particular situation. After all, we are all different in our problems and remedies.

May this article be a helpful reminder that you need sleep, not just any sleep, but 8-10 hours of deep restorative sleep, and may these suggestions help you get there. I wish you sweet dreams as your amazing body regenerates.

Formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, and faculty member at Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, Donna was Director of Fitness Arts at LivRite Fitness. There, she taught Ballet, Barre, Pilates, Stretch and Conditioning, Personal Training and provided fitness consultations to members. She created Raise the Barre at LivRite, trained, qualified, and managed its instructors, and wrote its training manual. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available wherever books are sold.
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