All healing happens during a state of deep sleep when hormones balance, the body cleanses, repairs, regenerates, and rejuvenates. It’s more than just knowing how many hours you’re sleeping; I want to understand how well you’re sleeping during our diagnosis call. It’s not about sleeping long enough, but rather about sleeping well enough.
Many of my patients report feeling fatigued, tired, heavy, bloated, and groggy despite their sleep tracking showing eight hours of rest. I envision someone who has slept for eight hours waking up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. This suggests that the quality of sleep was poor.
On the other hand, you can sleep for six-seven hours and wake up feeling clean, rested, and restored, indicating that you have given yourself 7 hours of deep rest. Quality and quantity both matter.
In our line of work, where we focus on enabling the body to heal itself by providing the right environment, I cannot emphasize the importance of deep sleep enough. It is the most critical medicine beyond medicine. Poor sleep means poor healing. Hence, we invest a lot of effort in coaching our patients to improve their sleep routine by giving them the right tools, methods, and strategies to do so.
Sleep is a natural process in our body. However, if it is compromised for some reason, it becomes essential to focus on the following questions:
How much time do you leave between your last meal and bedtime?
How much time do you leave between caffeine intake (tea/coffee) and bedtime?
How do you spend the last hour of your day before bedtime?
How active were you throughout the day?
Do you have a fixed bedtime?
The answers to these questions provide us with important clues about what may be interfering with your sleep.
Number one strategy
Deep sleep and relaxation can be achieved by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) through the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve that emanates from the brain and runs through almost every part of the human body. The opposite of being in the PNS is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is the fight or flight mode, and it is impossible to fall asleep in this mode. The body’s physiology simply wouldn’t allow it. In the SNS mode, heart rate, pulse rate, blood sugar, and blood pressure all increase, and digestion slows. It’s the body’s way of preparing us for survival, which is good, but it’s not good if we’re in this mode all the time or close to bedtime.
Some of the easiest ways to stimulate the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system are:
Low and slow deep breaths (LSD) - Slow belly breaths with long inhales and even longer exhales.
Meditation - Even 10 minutes of deep silence and focusing on your breathing or a mantra.
Nature - Connecting with any element of nature, whether it’s through a walk in the park or walking on grass or soaking in the sunlight.
Chanting or humming - Whether it is chanting ‘aum’ or humming a tune, the vibrations created help stimulate the vagus nerve.
Music therapy - Play any piece of music, preferably classical or instrumental.
Deep sleep is where we can harness the incredible intelligence of the human body to regenerate, repair, heal, balance, recover, and rejuvenate. Since it can only occur when we’re in the PNS, it’s essential to spend more time in this state.
Create that for yourself. It’s simple but requires discipline and consistency.
(Luke Coutinho is Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle – Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, Founder of You Care – All about YOU by Luke Coutinho)
(We are on WhatsApp. To get latest news updates, Join our Channel. Click here)