Why Sleep Matters and How to Get More

“Sleep is the Golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” ~Thomas Dekker

“Sleep is the best meditation.” ~ Dalai Lama

“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.” ~William Blake

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” ~Irish Proverb

In our frenzy to climb the corporate ladder, keep up with the Joneses, accumulate more and more stuff, and appear to be successful, we seem to have not only forgotten to exercise and eat better… we have also neglected the importance of a good night’s sleep.

Tired businessman

So often I hear people actually bragging about how little sleep “they” feel they need and can survive on each night. The operative word here being survive and which brings up the question, “But are they thriving?”

To survive really just means to stay alive, whereas to thrive means to prosper, advance, blossom, flourish and grow. Sure, we can survive on little sleep with the assistance of stimulants such as coffee, tea, and sugar but at what cost?

Sleep Positives and Negatives

Studies show the short and long term effects of sleep deprivation can include: irritability, cognitive impairment, memory lapses or loss, impaired moral judgment, severe yawning, hallucinations, symptoms similar to ADHD, impaired immune system, risk of type 2 diabetes, risk of heart disease, risk of obesity, and many more negative effects.

You really don’t have to do a long research project to validate these effects as we have all experienced some of these with ourselves or people we know.

The positive effects of the correct amount of sleep include: calmness, increased focus, sharpened memory, good judgement, stronger immune system, healthier weight (and the ability to maintain it), a happier disposition, increased energy, and many more advantages.

How much sleep is enough?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, to truly thrive and achieve optimal health and wellness:

  • older adults age 65 and over need 7 to 8 hours
  • adults from ages 26 to 64 need 7 to 9 hours
  • young adults ages 18 to 25 need 7 to 9 hours
  • teenagers ages 14 to 17 need 8 to 10 hours.

There are so many things that can have a negative impact on our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Let’s take a look at a few things you can do to help get a better night’s sleep:

Avoid before-bed snacks
Particularly avoid grains and sugars. This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.

Darken the room
Sleep in complete darkness or as close as possible.

If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and seratonin.

There also should be as little light in the bathroom as possible if you get up in the middle of the night. Please, whatever you do, keep the light off when you go to the bathroom at night. As soon as you turn on that light you will for that night immediately cease all production of the important sleep aid melatonin.

Avoid loud alarm clocks.
It is very stressful on the body to be awoken suddenly. Muffle a loud alarm; if you have a choice of alarm tones, choose something gentle and calming. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, alarms should be unnecessary.

Put your thoughts in a journal.
If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed.

Have a cool room.
Keep the temperature in the bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes and particularly the upstairs bedrooms too hot and this interferes with a refreshing night’s sleep.

Avoid alcohol.
Although alcohol will often make you drowsy, the effect is short lived and you can wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol will also keep you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of its healing.

Monitor your food sensitivities.
Avoid foods that you may be sensitive to. This is particularly true for dairy and wheat products, as they may have effect on sleep, such as causing apnea, excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset, and gas, among others.

Reduce late-night drinks.
Don’t drink fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood of needing to get up and go to the bathroom or at least minimize the frequency.

Warm up before bed.
Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. When your body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating sleep.

Remove the clock from view.
This might sound counter-intuitive, but it will only add to your worry if you constantly stare at a display that says… 2 a.m. …3 a.m. … 4:30 a.m. …

Keep your bed for sleeping.
If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and to think of the bed as a place to sleep.

It is really up to us to mitigate and negate as many of these disruptions as we possibly can. Our health depends on it.

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