According to clinical psychologist Dr. Rubin Naiman, getting a good night's sleep is critical for our physical, spiritual and emotional health—yet more and more people suffer from sleep disorders and insomnia. Dr. Naiman urges us to slow down, unwind and embrace the spiritual side of sleep, and he says most sleep problems can—and should—be treated without medications. Dr. Oz talks to Dr. Naiman, who is also the sleep specialist at the Miraval Resort in Arizona and the author of Healing Night: The Science and Spirit of Sleeping, Dreaming and Awakening, about the importance of sleep and ways that you can reclaim the night:
Dr. Naiman says that if you fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow, you are most likely sleep deprived and excessively tired. Give yourself 10–15 minutes in bed, in the dark and alone with your thoughts before you fall asleep, he says.
If you consistently need an alarm clock to wake up, you're not getting enough sleep. "If you get enough sleep, you'll just awaken naturally," Dr. Naiman says. The simple solution: Go to bed earlier.
If you're using excessive stimulation during the day for energy, such as caffeine, high-glycemic foods or running on adrenaline, you're probably not getting enough sleep, Dr. Naiman says.
Be sure to sleep in complete darkness—that means turning off the TV, night-lights and bright alarm clocks. Dr. Naiman says that even a small amount of light at night suppresses the body's production of melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates the body's sleep-wake cycle and plays a vital role in other important biological processes.
Dreams are extremely valuable to the human psyche, Dr. Naiman says, not only from a spiritual standpoint but from a health standpoint. In fact, he says evidence suggests that "the chronic loss of dreaming may be the most critically overlooked factor in clinical depression."
The process of preparing your mind and body for sleep is a valuable spiritual process, Dr. Naiman says. "It's an opportunity to literally practice this fundamental art of letting go, of surrendering," he says.
Rest is just as important as sleep, Dr. Naiman says. People often confuse rest with recreational activities like bowling, reading or drinking alcohol, he says. Rather, learn to engage in things like meditation, yoga or prayer. "Rest informs most approaches to healing and I think we underestimate how powerful it is," he says.