Proper Sleep: the Most Essential Way to Improve Your Life?

By Casey Foster, DC

What are 2 things there are never enough of?  Sleep and Money.  The Mayo Clinic recommends that people 18 years and older receive 7-9 hours of sleep per night 1.  While a recent survey by the BLS revealed that the average American receives over 7 hours of sleep per day 2 I have my doubts.  As someone who has both an active business and a very active toddler that is not something that comes very easy.  So how do we get the rest we need even if we can’t devote 9 hours a night to sleep?


Before we get to that let’s learn a little about sleep.  Sleep is the mind & body’s recovery time.  This is when the mind processes new information from the day and commits some or all of it to long term memory.  When trying to learn new material experts recommend studying just before bed and then going straight to sleep, either a brief nap or a full night’s sleep.  The body also recovers during sleep.  This is when wounds heal the quickest (outside and inside) and when your body produces many of its necessary hormones.

Wound healing sounds bad but is actually good. This is when we rebuild muscle to become stronger after working out and when we repair the damage from small traumas done to the body.  Hormone replenishment is also vitally important.  The most powerful and perhaps most important of these hormones is serotonin, which is a ‘happy’ hormone that lets you feel joy and happiness but also plays a vital role in digestive health.

Certain conditions like fibromyalgia and post-traumatic stress disorder have a close relationship with sleep loss and consequently serotonin loss.  These individuals also routinely have muscle or joint pain that is quite frequent or even constant.

So how does one go about improving your sleep?

Before we develop a routine lets clear some things out.  Take the TV and computer out of the bedroom.  These electronic devices are great time wasters that incidentally make it harder to stick to your routine.  Also the light & sound given off actually can make the part of your brain that releases a sleep hormone (yes there is one of those too) release less, making it harder to go to sleep.  Change the light bulbs in the bedroom to lower wattage (preferably compact flourescent to reduce energy usage).  Check your box springs and mattress.  Damaged box springs can cause sagging which can cause discomfort during the sleep period.  If your mattress is in need of replacing make sure to get a mattress with a longer return period so you can try it out in your home (5 minutes on a mattress at a store does not tell you how well you will sleep on it for 6+ hours).


Now lets get a game plan and stick to it.  Developing a night time routine to be done every night helps your body start the shutdown and sleep rhythm.


  1. Set a time that you will begin your routine.
  2. Turn off the TV, radio, computer and other electronics.
  3. Dim the lights.
  4. Use the restroom and brush your teeth.
  5. Lower the thermostat a few degrees 3.
  6. Find a comfortable position (see upcoming article on sleeping positions).
  7. Try a white noise machine if you have difficulty with ambient noise or complete silence.


So now we have ways to improve the quality of sleep, quantity will depend on to many factors but remember more is better and most people aren’t getting the sleep they need.

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Casey Foster, DC is the owner and chiropractor at Foster Chiropractic.  He holds 2 bachelor’s degrees in biology and a doctor of chiropractic degree from Logan College of Chiropractic.  His certifications in 2 acclaimed soft tissue techniques allow him to help many conditions.  He can be reached at 502-509-3121 or through his website at

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