So just how important is sleep? Most people I talk to say they get between 6-7 hours of sleep a night. Some say that is about what they require, but most people say they would love to get more sleep.
I know for myself that I require at least eight hours a night, though I THRIVE with about 9. 🙂
The Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests six reasons to get enough sleep:
Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.
So, your nutrition and fitness may be spot on, but without sleep you may end up: 1: Dumb. 2: Overweight. 3: Dead as a doornail. 4: Cranky. 5: Dead, again. 6: Sick.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon/evening.
- Get some exercise, either in the morning or afternoon. Be careful about exercising right before bedtime because it can keep you awake! (which of course is why it is great to exercise in the morning)
- De-stress before you hit the hay. Forget the television, I find that taking the hour or so before bed to prepare for the next day, take care of last minute things that might be stressing you out, or even just straightening up my house helps to put my mind at ease so that I can fall asleep.
- Try not to eat too much at dinner. As Americans, our biggest meal is normally dinner. I tend to get home from work pretty late at night. I’m usually starving and tend to eat more than I should. Then I try to go to bed a couple hours later and wonder why I can’t sleep! Try to eat a lighter meal as early as you can before bedtime to insure you can fall right to sleep, and not be lying in bed for an hour listening to your stomach digest your Big Mac, fries and McFlurry.
- Make your bedroom your sleep haven. Make sure your room is DARK. Experts even advice against bright alarm clocks or any light in your room really, as weak as that light might seem. Keep it quiet, or find some white noise to introduce to muffle noise, such as a fan or noise machine. Don’t watch television or read anything that is too stimulating. One bad habit I have is using my phone to surf the net or play sudoku right as I lay in bed. Bad idea. Keep your cell, computer, or tablet out of your bedroom. And Erin, leave the sudoku for daylight hours.
- Get into a bedtime ritual. Take a hot bath, read a boring book, listen to music that is calming and slow, or drink some hot tea or hot milk (blech, but to each his own). Do the same things every night so that your body sees these as signals for bedtime. Bath+MobyDick+Brahm’sRequiem=Sleepytime.