Ya Gotta Sleep!

Sleep; Why & How

I was so impressed to see many of you put “get more sleep” as one of your health goals for the Winter Health Challenge! Our body needs sleep to keep healthy, yet most of us do not make it a priority. Some use little sleep as a badge of honor “I only need 4 hours of sleep”, another sign of how busy we think we need to be. Ask yourself, am I really getting enough, is 4 hours really all I need?

Stats Can says; “experts say we need between 7-9 hours every night to feel refreshed”. The experts are not sited here, however the National Sleep Foundation sites the same time, and they seem to be experts. If you Google “how much sleep do we need” Helpguide.org comes up at the top of the list stating we need 7 hours. Havard Med says 7.5 to 8.5 hours to function optimally, but states that genetics will dictate how much we need.

So how do we know how much sleep we need, maybe 4 hours is all that some people really do need. One of the ways you can tell is if you need an alarm clock to wake you up. If you are getting enough sleep you should be able to wake on time without an alarm clock. Or the obvious give away you feel tired during the day. Lack of sleep will also affect your ability to concentrate and function normally. Essentially when you do not get enough sleep you are not at your best.

When we sleep our body is able to rejuvenate, recover and restore. During sleep our muscles grow, tissue repairs and hormones synthesize. Brain waves slow and steadies, then flushes out waste that impairs cognitive function. Dr. Rapoport a Professor at NYU Langnone Medical Center say that “if you are trying to learn something physical or mental you can learn it to a certain point with practice. However something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better. So my students, sacrificing sleep to study, will not help you retain the information – sleep will.

Sleep and metabolism are also controlled by the same part of your brain. A study from the University of Chicago found that well rested dieters lost more fat than sleep deprived dieters, and those that were sleep deprived lost more muscle mass. I know when I am sleepy I tend to look for more sugar and caffeine to keep me going. Which provides me with little bursts of energy, but no other benefit to my over all health. The only good solution is to get more sleep.

We all know we need sleep to survive and function, but how do we accomplish this? From my research one consistent key to good sleep is keeping to a consistent schedule, go to bed and wake up at the same time and when you don’t get enough sleep give yourself time for a nap. So simple yet not always achievable especially when stress and other factors keep you from falling asleep. I started to get a bit stressed out by the simple tips to a good nights sleep I found. There are many lists ranging from 5-20 things you can do to improve your sleep. “9 Foods That Can Help You Sleep Better”; “7 Steps to Better Sleep”; “10 Tips to Fall Asleep”, Ahhh too much information! Now I can fall asleep because I forgot to do tip #6 and I did not eat any of the 9 sleep boosting foods today. Her is my list:

  1. Eat well during the day and limit your caffeine. A contently nourished body will rest well without disruption.
  2. Exercise regularly. Working out during the day will help reduce stress and improve your sleep. Our bodies are meant to be physical during the day and we need to burn off energy.
  3. Plan your bedtime – set a time to go to bed and stick to it. Try to make it consistent, and when you stay up a bit later try to have a wee nap to make up for a shorter nights sleep the next day.
  4. Quiet your mind before bed. If your head is full of “to do’s”, put pen to paper and remove the list from your brain. Meditation can help as well. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I will focus on my breath and count inhales and exhales until my brain quiets and I fall asleep.

Ultimately, making sleep a priority in your day will help. By making it a health goal and recognizing sleep is important you are doing a good thing for yourself. You are creating a healthy lifestyle and ultimately your body will thank you for it. Making your health a priority is good thing.

Sweet dreams!