Back to blog

2024 Healthier You Series: Sleep – The Bedrock of a Healthful Lifestyle and 7 Ways to Improve It

How important is sleep? Let me count the ways… If you consider virtually any aspect of life — physical health, mental health, aging well, resistance to disease, weight control, detoxification, hormonal balance, stress management, mood modulation, creativity, problem-solving, memory, brain health, the list goes on… you will discover that sufficient sleep plays a vital role in it:  and conversely, lack of sufficient sleep could prove detrimental. Sleep is the foundation upon which the pillars of health stand.  

Take away the bedrock of sleep, or weaken it just a little, and careful eating or physical exercise becomes less than effective…”
       “Why We Sleep” by Dr. Matthew Walker

Getting the requisite hours and quality of sleep you need may be one of the most important health care steps you can take. Let’s look at some of the reasons that sleep is so fundamentally important. 

What Happens When We Sleep

A diagram showing the different stages of sleep

The above image is a picture of brainwave activity during sleep. Once thought to be a period of passive rest, sleep has revealed itself to be full of bustling activity. The pattern of recurring sleep cycles throughout the night reflects the busy schedule your body keeps to be ready for the next day. For example, during nonREM sleep, which dominates the first part of the night, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds muscles, and strengthens the immune system.1  During REM sleep, which dominates the latter part of the night, the brain makes creative connections between new information and stored memories, turns new physical skills into unconscious motor memory, and softens the sharp edges of painful memories.2, 3

Physical Health and Your Immune System

Sufficient sleep is crucial to a healthy immune system.  Proteins called cytokines need to increase when you have an infection, an inflammation, or are under stress. Their production may decrease with lack of sleep; infection-fighting antibodies and cells also decrease when you are not getting enough sleep.

…lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”
       Mayo Clinic4

Sufficient Sleep Supports Healthy Weight.

Sleep affects the regulation of two hormones associated with appetite: ghrelin (I need more energy) and leptin (I have enough energy). While you sleep, the levels of leptin in your body increase. When you do not get enough sleep, you have too little leptin in your body and this alerts your brain to let you know you are hungry, even if you do not need calories for energy. Chronic lack of sleep produces a feeling of being hungry throughout the day and also slows down your metabolism — a double whammy. Also while you sleep, the levels of ghrelin decrease because you do not need as much energy as you do during the day. With lack of sleep the ghrelin levels in your body are higher, signaling that you need to eat and to store what you eat as fat. Both of these hormones regulate feelings of hunger or satiety by signaling the brain. Another added “whammy” is that lack of sleep also results in the increased desire to eat junk food.5, 6

Sufficient Sleep Enhances Productivity and Creativity

The familiar phrase to “sleep on it” is taking on new meaning with current research.  Sleep is not only important for storing new memories but also for creative thinking: finding new connections between current input from the day and stored memories. Aside from wonderful, inspired ideas though, is just the benefit of performing well. Sleep researcher Dr. Walker has observed in his clinical research that participants who experience less than 7 hours of sleep virtually always do not perform as well, even when they think they are doing just fine.

When you learn something new, and then immediately sleep on it, what you learned becomes clearer and more creative.”
       Psychology Today 7

Healthy sleep is essential for optimal learning and memory function.”
       Harvard Medical School Healthy Sleep Website  8

Sufficient Sleep is Essential to Emotional Health

Sleep is important for your emotional health. The amygdala, the reactive, part of the brain is tempered by the prefrontal cortex, the modulating part of the brain. Studies have shown that the communication between the two is strengthened during sleep. This contributes to a sense of equilibrium and well-being.9

Estimates are that one-third of Americans are not getting enough quality sleep. Are you one of them? The National Sleep Foundation has a colorful chart of the recommended number of hours of sleep for different age groups.10 Quality sleep is deep, natural, and uninterrupted, from which you receive the benefits of each of its different stages.

Ways to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep


1. Make Sufficient Sleep a Priority 

People often feel they do not have time to get the recommended hours of sleep. If you are one of them, I hope this presentation gives you pause to reconsider. Sufficient sleep, rather than detracting from, optimizes your life experiences. During clinical studies researchers have noticed that the emphasis on different brain waves during the night can shift based upon what you were doing during the day: your sleeping and waking selves are working in tandem to create a better you. As an example, in a presentation for the Lee and Nile Albright Symposium series on health, Harvard sleep researcher Dr. Robert Stickgold describes how the different strategies participants used to solve a problem were reflected in their different sleep patterns. The best way to maximize your sleep is to develop good habits: set aside enough hours and keep to a regular schedule. There are various ways to determine the amount of sleep that you need; interestingly, craving junk food can be a sign that you are not getting enough. Fitting sufficient sleep into your schedule requires the right mindset: it is important to make it a priority. Remember, you will ultimately be not only healthier, but more creative, productive, and lovable. 

2. Be Mindful of Your Use of Sleep Aids 

You might be surprised to learn that the regular use of both OTC and prescription sleeping pills could interfere with your quest for the benefits of good quality sleep. There are a number of reasons: regular use makes them less effective, they can be addictive, they have numerous possible side effects, long term use of some has been associated with a risk of dementia and there is also evidence that some interfere with the natural sleep cycles.11, 12 Cannabis has been used medicinally and recreationally for thousands of years. Current reviews of marijuana as a sleep aid have been mixed. Medical marijuana can be prescribed as a sleep aid and there is also the use of recreational cannabis by some. Research on medical marijuana shows It does help people fall asleep faster; however, it also alters the natural sleep cycles and long term use may result in poorer sleep.13,14

3. Pay Attention to Eating and Drinking Habits Before Bedtime

If you eat before bedtime, choose the right foods. While eating a large or spicy meal close to bedtime might cause heartburn and even interfere with getting enough deep sleep, some foods may promote better sleep. Bananas are high in magnesium, which relaxes muscles, almonds contain melatonin and sleep-inducing tryptophan, honey stimulates the release of melatonin in the brain, and poultry also contains tryptophan. Alcohol too close to bedtime can make you drowsy but then keep you awake later. Too much fluid intake can ruin the benefits of uninterrupted sleep with visits to the bathroom.

4. Adjust for Artificial Lighting  

The artificial lights we are exposed to at night can affect sleep. Blue light has been considered the most disruptive, although one recent study suggested that yellow light was even more so. The blue light emitted from electronic devices interferes with the production of melatonin more than any other wavelength. Known as the sleep hormone, melatonin rises in the evening, peaks during the night, and returns to low levels in the morning. If you have trouble falling asleep, you might try blue-light blocking lenses, or, as experts recommend, shut your devices off an hour before going to bed.  

5. Reduce Daily Stress  

Reducing stress could be a whole life project in itself, of course. Regular exercise helps to lower your stress hormones and promote healthy sleep. The regular practice of such arts as yoga, t’ai chi, meditation, mindfulness training,and deep breathing can help you become more skillful at releasing tension. Spending time with your pets is not only relaxing but can be therapeutic. Did you know that cats purr in the vibrational frequency healing to bone health?15 Getting enough sunlight helps regulate sleeping patterns. Exposure to morning sunlight is especially beneficial.16

6. Tame The Restless Mind

The restless mind can wreak havoc on your sleep. Once you are in bed, Instead of drifting off to sleep you are remembering, reviewing, planning, worrying… Sometimes you are not even sure what is keeping you up. There is a whole new industry of sleep aides —  apps and podcasts that help promote sleep once you are in bed with guided meditation, music, nature sounds, bedtime stories, to name a few. AMD-U, our educational website, offers a yoga nidra guided meditation for sleep. Yoga nidra fosters not only better sleep but also deepens the mind/body connection.

7. Prepare Your Bedroom Well

Studies have shown that sleep is enhanced with a slightly cool bedroom temperature and complete darkness. Make this your room dedicated to sleep, as free as possible from EMFs. If you take your cell phone into your bedroom, turn off its WiFi.


Detox and De-Stress with the IonCleanse by AMD

Scheduling an IonCleanse by AMD ionic foot bath in the evening can also be beneficial. The IonCleanse not only helps reduce the stress of your toxic burden but also delivers a filtered current through our patented process that helps create the relaxation response within the body. Many of our clients notice how calm they feel after a session. Here is a sample of the kind of comments we have received about the IonCleanse by AMD’s ability to promote better sleep.   

Discover The Joy of Sleep

Good sleepers enjoy their sleep. Create rituals to support your intention to make the most of your sleep: take a warm bath, use essential oils, stretch, make tomorrow’s to-do list, meditate. Look forward to indulging in the nighttime period of rest and rejuvenation that will revitalize your skin, improve your memory, help you learn new physical skills, heighten your creativity, strengthen your immune system, modulate your mood, support healthy weight… and much, much more.  

Getting enough quality sleep is essential for a healthful lifestyle. To get the most out of your life — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually —  make this foundation, the bedrock of the pillars of health, strong. 


The promised bonus: Yoga Nidra Deep Sleep Meditation with Mandala – I recovered from many years of insomnia with the help of yoga nidra meditation practice. I still practice it regularly for more sustained, deeper sleep.   Mandalas – focusing on or drawing them is calming and therapeutic. 


We hope you enjoyed this first installment of our 2024 Healthier You series. We welcome any thoughts and comments. You can address these to

Next up in the series will be  Nourishing Your Microbiome:The Health Pillar of Nutrition

Previous story Next story