I am an avid reader and lifelong learner. To that end, I receive many magazines on a variety of topics and I have stacks of books all over my home which I am reading on a variety of topics which interest me. This past week I received one of my favorite magazines which had an article on “Sleep” in it which I will tell you about in a moment. Last week I also attended a neuroscience conference where “Sleep” was discussed as one of the breakout sessions. When I finished reading my notes from the conference and the magazine article and I randomly picked up a book and opened it for some inspiration; it fell open to a poem on rest and sleep. OK, now that is a definite indication that I need to cover the topic!
Here are just a few facts:
1) The average human needs 6 to 8 hours every night.
2) When we burn the midnight oil, or pull an “all nighter”: “Your metal performance is like you are legally drunk” (this effect has been seen in people who reduce sleep from 8 to 6 hours per night)
3) Lack of 8 hours of sleep: leads to compromised metabolism, a suppressed immune system, impairs performance, puts us in a bad mood, we are less alert, less productive, we do not repair at a cellular level, REM sleep does not occur, our short term memory is vulnerable to sleep loss and on and on
4) If you are a fitness buff: lack of sleep in direct conjunction with an athlete in training weakens the immune system and this in turn has affects on fitness recovery.
5) Sleep and longevity are directly linked to each other. Sleep debt mimics many of the signs of aging. Sleep debt also hastens aging aliments, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and memory decline.
So what can you do?
1) Put SLEEP at the top of your priority list. A calm peaceful environment and a routine are critical to achieving this huge health benefit for yourself and your family. Remember than teenagers during the growth spurt years need more than 8 hours of rest to be at optimum function.
2) Go to bed and get up at the same time 7 DAYS A WEEK! Contrary to popular belief, you cannot make up for lost sleep by “sleeping in”.
3) Get 1 hour of sunshine everyday. No excuses. This is what sets our internal biological clock.
4) Bedrooms should be free from distraction. No TV, phone ringer off, black out shades, a little cooler temperature. Use the bedroom for relaxation. The bed should be for sleep, cuddling and sex, not for bill paying or laptops, and no cell phones and blackberries under the pillow.
5) Eat and drink wisely before bed. If you are sensitive to caffeine, did you know it can stay in your blood system for up to 14 hours? Alcohol may help you get to sleep, however, you will not stay asleep. It actually hinders REM sleep (or deep sleep). Eating heavy meals late in the evening (such as a night out on the town or at a business meeting) will not serve you. Eat your lightest meal at the end of the day instead, skip the coffee, alcohol and dessert. You will sleep better.
6) Clear you mind before you begin your relaxation routine for bed. This is another reason for the electronic items to be out of the bedroom and off. If you have a busy day tomorrow, sit down and do what I call a “brain dump”. Just write it all down and get it out of your mind and let go of the items. They will still be there tomorrow morning.
7) If you cannot go to sleep within 30 minutes, get up and go to another room and do something relaxing (not TV or email, this will re-engage your brain, or EAT). I have often read that those who like yoga and stretching do some light relaxation breathing and stretching and this relaxes them)
There are many resources on the web, in books, in magazines, and in the medical community to help you. What I have learned is that when you lose our routine or never have a routine it catches up with you, physically and mentally and in our relationships. One other cautionary note here: If you are feeling sleepy all day or you fall asleep during the day or you wake up each morning with a headache or a hurting jaw, this is a sign that something else is going on and you will want to tell your physician about these things. Some 70 million Americans suffer from Sleep Apnea according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.
Resources for this article: American Sleep Apnea Association, One Healthy Lifestyle, Experience Life, Articles by Lawrence Epstein, MD, William C. Dement, MD, PhD, Gregg D Jacobs, PhD, Christopher Vaughan, Lila Devachi, PhD, and Mathew Lieberman, PhD.