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When we think of healthful lifestyle choices we generally consider requirements for a healthy diet and regular vigorous exercise. We want to be sure we're eating a wide variety of foods from the primary food groups and that we’re careful to watch our daily calorie intake. In the realm of exercise, we want to do a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise five days a week. These lifestyle recommendations apply to young and older adults, older children, and teenagers, that is, the entire extended family. But many people neglect to take into account the third pillar of healthy lifestyle enhancement, that of getting sufficient rest. Obtaining sufficient restorative, refreshing sleep may be the most underrated and under-discussed lifestyle choice.1,2
The amount of sleep necessary to maintain good health varies among individuals, but the minimum requirement is most often reported as seven hours. For most of us, getting less than seven hours of sleep a night on a regular basis will likely be insufficient to support physiological functioning. For example, the great philosopher Immanuel Kant famously got up at 5 am every day. But Kant went to bed at 10 pm, thus obtaining seven hours of restful sleep per night.
Sufficient rest enables our bodies to recover from daily stresses and strains and repair damaged cells and tissues. Getting less sleep than we need, over time, results in muscle and joint stiffness and tension, otherwise unexplained aches and pains, impaired digestion with a wide range of symptoms, emotional irritability, and disordered cognitive function.3 Without sufficient sleep, people become more easily confused and forgetful. Decision-making becomes flawed. It becomes much more difficult to analyze and comprehend the big picture, whatever the undertaking. If these symptoms sound all too familiar, the source of the problem may frequently be identified as failing to get the amount of sleep you really need.
Thus, contrary to the six, five, or four hours of sleep a night that business "gurus" and "consultants" claim they thrive on, seven hours of nightly sleep is a basic requirement for the vast majority of people. Eight hours of sleep is great when you can get it. The question becomes, how in our very busy lives is it possible to get this amount of sleep? The solution lies in following, approximately, the lifestyle chosen by Kant (1724–1804), the giant of the Enlightenment who needed optimum good health in order to support a lifetime of tremendously fruitful activity. Personal discipline comes into play. For example, arising at 5:30 or 6 am might work better for us, but we would need to make sure we go to bed at 10:30 or 11 pm.
Many may find, once they've become aware of the significance of this lifestyle upgrade, that seven-and-a-half or eight hours of sleep per night works best for them. The key is to get the rest that's right for you. Over time, you and all your family members will notice the difference, as each one begins to fulfill this necessary component of healthy living. The long-term result is good health, happiness, and enjoyment in life.
How Regular Chiropractic Care can Improve the Quality of Sleep
We are not in charge during our sleep periods, that is, what happens when we sleep is not under the control of our conscious selves. All our physiological mechanisms, known as vegetative functions, proceed on their own. Just as when we're awake, our heart, lungs, and digestive organs operate independently of our conscious instructions. But if we're not controlling these life-sustaining systems, what is? The nerve system is in control, both when we're asleep and awake. As our body's master system, the nerve system makes sure that all the physiological systems are online, all the time.
But the nerve system itself requires maintenance and upkeep. That's where regular chiropractic care comes in. Regular chiropractic care detects and corrects sources of nerve interference that would degrade the performance of our body's master system. By helping to optimize spinal alignment and reducing the effects of nerve interference, regular chiropractic care helps us function efficiently and effectively. The result is good health in the present and assistance with ongoing health and well-being in the future.
- Dulloo AG, et al: Nutrition, movement and sleep behaviours: their interactions in pathways to obesity and cardiometabolic diseases. Obesity Rev 18(Suppl S1):3-6, 2017
- Saunders TJ: Combinations of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep: relationships with health indicators in school-aged children and youth. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 41(6 Suppl 3):S283-S293, 2016
- Chambers AM: The role of sleep in cognitive processing: focusing on memory consolidation. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci 2017 Jan 3. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1433. [Epub ahead of print]