Let’s talk about sleep. A few years ago – okay, maybe more than a few years - I remember thinking that sleep was overrated. There was too much to do and just not enough time. Fast forward a few years and I realize that that particular thought was just plain stupid. We just as well call a spade a spade.
Sleep is our time to recharge and rejuvenate. Lack of sleep causes all kinds of physical issues and, quite frankly, makes one feel brain dead.
Last night I woke up at 2:00 a.m. and proceeded to toss and turn for the next 2 ½ hours before I finally fell asleep again… just in time for the frickin’ alarm to go off at 5:00 am. Who hasn’t had that experience? Today I’m fuzzy headed and would be happy to crawl under my desk and catch some zzzzz’s. If I thought for a second that the carpet in this office had been vacuumed in the past decade, I probably would.
So I apologize in advance for any sloppiness in my writing, but 4 to 5 hours of sleep just doesn’t cut it for me. “What does?”, you ask. Well, according to Dr. Michael Twery of the National Institutes of Health, an adult should get between 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep a night, babies need about 16 hours a day, young children need at least 10 hours and teenagers need at least 9 hours.
So what? What’s the big deal about sleep deprivation?
Not only does lack of sleep do all that crap, but get a load of this:
- sleep deprivation can kill your sex drive!
- it can contribute to symptoms of depression
- it ages your skin which at my age is definitely not something I’m on board for
- it makes you forgetful
- it can cause weight gain by stimulating appetite and cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods
- it can increase risk of death
Yikes! So much for the sleep is overrated philosophy! It’s aging me – not something I’m particularly wanting – and it’s the reason for my sudden desire to go to Subway!
Okay, so what can we do to turn this around? Follow some simple rules and tips for the perfect snooze:
- Stick to a regular bed and waking times.
- Wind down before bed – If you want to turn your brain off, this is imperative. A warm bath; write down any random thoughts or things to do for the next day; guided meditation and relaxation CDs; reading or listening to music; deep breathing.
- Create a bedroom environment that is sleep friendly – Keep out the electronic gadgets and make sure you have a comfortable mattress; keep the bedroom for sleep or sex; the room should be dark, quiet, and cool. A sleeping mask or earplugs can ensure you’re able to create the right environment if you’re falling short.
- Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine late in the day.
- Avoid nicotine.
- Exercise daily.
Sleep can be elusive for many of us, but if we do our best to create an environment that promotes healthy sleep patterns, we’re ahead of the game.
The power of sleep cannot be underestimated. As noted above, while we sleep, our bodies rejuvenate and recharge. In fact, adequate and good quality sleep affects our whole body including growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health. For instance, key hormones associated with appetite, ghrelin and leptin, can be altered without proper sleep and lack of sleep can lead to the development of visceral fat around key organs which has been linked to rising health issues such as cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
So sit down and have a cup of relaxing chamomile tea, avoid stimulating caffeine or medications, turn off those distracting electronics and lights, and get some adequate, good quality zzzzz’s.
Now having said all of that, I think I need a coffee or my jammies.