Health Tip #6
Sleep- make it a priority
One of the most neglected aspects of health and wellness these days is sleep. Although it is an activity that adds to the quality of our lives and should make up a big part of our time, it is often put towards the bottom of the priority list. Granted, the western world has evolved to such a degree that many people are put in circumstances where sleep gets only leftover attention instead of primary attention. Now, we all know someone, or might be someone, who only needs to sleep a few hours a night and can survive, or even thrive. This is typically only short term. If you do not sleep well, and quality also matters here, you can expect your health to suffer either immediately or down the road when it catches up to you.
(For those of you with infants and small children, this post is just something to keep in mind, although practically speaking, you will be challenged in this area. Do your best to get sleep when you can, since it can be a precious commodity)
So, why is sleep that important? Here are a few things that should be considered.
While you are sleeping you…
Perform nearly all of your body’s regeneration and repair…
Burn your highest percentage of body fat…
Formulate memories and assimilate information in your brain…
Regulate heart and circulatory health…
Become more efficient at managing blood sugar…
Improve your immune system…
Performing a numerous amount of other processes for bodily health and homeostasis…
Or, put another way, several things, ranging from annoying to deadly, can result from not getting good sleep. Typically, most people are aware of the importance of sleep, yet life gets in the way and sleep gets ignored as a priority. When that happens, there are several things that people will likely experience (some of which are not always attributed to the lack of sleep).
Sleep deprivation can lead to…
Decreased performance and alertness
Craving for sugar and stimulants
Memory and cognitive impairment
Lack of patience and understanding
Poor quality of life
High blood pressure
Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
Fetal and childhood growth retardation
Injury from accidents
Disruption of bed partner’s sleep quality
Poor quality of life
(Taken from WebMD)
How much should we sleep? With a few individual differences, here is a guideline for sleep requirements (remember that just because someone can get by does not mean they do not need more sleep for optimal health).
Sleep Requirements by Age (from Better-Sleep-Better-Life.com)
Newborns (0-2 months old) 12-18 hours
Infants (3-11 months old) 14-15 Hours
Toddlers (1-3 years old)l 12-14 Hours
Pre-schoolers (3-5 years old) 11-13 Hours
School-aged Children (5-10 years old) 10-11 Hours
Teens (11-17 years old) 8-9 Hours
Adults 7-9 Hours
And what if sleep is a problem? How does one go about improving sleep patterns? There are several ideas in this realm.
Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule
Don’t drink or eat caffeine four to six hours before bed and minimize daytime use
Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime or if you awake in the night
Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep
Get regular exercise
Minimize noise, light and excessive hot and cold temperatures where you sleep
Develop a regular bed time and go to bed at the same time each night
Try and wake up without an alarm clock
Attempt to go to bed earlier every night for certain period; this will ensure that you’re getting enough sleep
(from the American Pyschological Association)
My suggestions would also include…
Sleep in a DARK room- the darker the better (this means covering up LED lights and other light “pollution”)
Dim the lights in the hour or so leading to bedtime
Try to avoid TV, computers, and phones/PDAs for the hour or so prior to bedtime
When it all comes down to it, we will likely be as healthy as we decide that sleep is important. Although it is only one aspect of wellness and longevity, it typically can be a formulating component of your health. So, the more you can make sleep a priority the better health and quality of life you will likely enjoy.
Thanks for reading, let me know if I can help or expand on anything else.
Here is a good web post on some sleep tips…