When we are in emotional upheaval or during the breakup of a long term relationship, getting enough sleep can be difficult. Few people realize however, that exercise and sleep are equally important for your health, and one shouldn’t be sacrificed for another. We’ll be exploring the effect sleep has on our health, how much sleep we need and how we can help our bodies to get the sleep it needs. As you are dealing with the changes in your life, sleep is going to be a major factor in how well you can meet the challenges you are dealing with.
1. Sleep and Our Health.
Oftentimes we look at sleep as a luxury. Something we’d like to have more of, but nothing that hurts us other than feeling sleepy during the day. Not true. Adequate sleep has been linked to improved memory, stronger immune systems, ability to focus and decreases accidents. All that just because you get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is also linked to weight gain. Nooooo! If I wanted to gain weight, I’d eat more. Here are some findings from research done by psychologist David Dinges, PHD.
…as you are dealing with the changes in your life, sleep is going to be a major factor in how well you can meet the challenges you are dealing with.
- Laboratory experiments on the effects of sleep deprivation have shown that not getting enough sleep dramatically impairs memory and concentration while increasing levels of stress hormones and disrupting the body’s normal metabolism. Research outside the laboratory further suggests that long-term sleep deprivation puts people at greater risk of motor vehicle accidents and disease.
- Dinges learned that people who get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night show pronounced cognitive and physiological deficits, including memory impairments, a reduced ability to make decisions, and dramatic lapses in attention.
- Too little shuteye has been linked to increased risk of car crashes, poor work performance, and problems with mood and relationships. Sleep deprivation taxes the immune system and is associated with a heightened risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and depression. People who chronically do not get enough sleep may actually be cutting their lives short.
2. How Much Sleep Do We Need?
Most recommendations call for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for adults. Many adults believe they are okay with less. Answering the following questions can help you to explore whether you sleep enough.
- Are your moods overall positive and do you have a clear frame of mind?
- Does your energy level support your daily needs?
- Can you easily get through a day without caffeine?
- Do you have a regular sleep schedule?
Answering no to any of these questions can mean you are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis so you may want to increase your sleep to see if lack of sleep has been affecting you negatively.
Sleeping for an extended period (7-9 hours in a session) allows us to have more REM and Deep Sleep Cycles. These are two of the four stages of sleep:
- Stage 1 – Short period of drowsiness transitioning into a light sleep.
- Stage 2 – Light sleep in which our temperature drops, and heart and respiratory rates slow. Our muscles begin to relax.
- Stage 3 and 4 Deep Sleep Cycles – Your brain waves slow down as does breathing and heart rate. Your muscles relax. During this stage of sleep the slow brain waves help us to regulate the metabolism of glucose and reload our stored energy.
- Stage 5 – REM: Rapid Eye Movement – This sleep is when we consolidate our memories and dream. Our brain processes our emotions, making our dreams vivid. Anything we learned during the day, including new motor skills are committed to memory.
When we get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep, we may cycle through theses stages 4 to 6 times a sleep session.
3. How Can We Get a Better Night’s Sleep?
Most experts suggest a sleep routine that typically begins 30 minutes before you go to bed. Your routine should include some dos and don’ts for the period of time before you go to bed.
- Use electronic devices or watch TV during the hour before bedtime
- Work on budgets or any kind of math – it stimulates your brain
- Participate in aerobic or high energy exercise within 2 hours of bedtime
- Eat a heavy meal or dessert with 3 hours of bedtime
- Take in any caffeine after Noon
- Go to bed until your ready to go to sleep
- Have a sleep schedule that you follow every day
- Lower the temperature in your home
- Take a relaxing bath
- Darken your bedroom
- If it’s cooler outside, open a window and let fresh air inside
- Create a period relaxing activity each day just before going to bed. e.g., meditation, reading, working on a puzzle, or writing a gratitude list
Set yourself up in the morning for a good night’s sleep. Let the sunshine in when you get up, get exercise early in the day, keep a to do list – if it’s written down you don’t have to worry about remembering anything. Make your bed. Make getting into a bed, pulling down the covers, a part of your ritual and a signal to your brain every day that it’s time to sleep. Getting adequate sunlight each day will also help to set your circadian rhythms to allow for better sleep at night.
Outside of these rituals, and organic ways to get the sleep you need, you may want to look at sleep supplements like Melatonin, Benadryl or over the counter sleep medications. Some utilize CBN edibles to help them sleep. Check with a doctor before using any of these DIY supplements or medications. Keep an eye on how they affect your moods. Some of these OTC remedies people have been shown to affect moods and/or dreams with consistent use.
Make Sleep a Priority
We encourage you to make sleep a priority. If you are experiencing insomnia, or having trouble sleeping, try the suggestions above. You may want to blend these suggestions. e.g., Exercise, sleep schedule and melatonin. Don’t combine any supplements or medications and please check with your doctor. That could cause health problems. As your sleep improves, notice the changes to your mood, your alertness, and your stamina. You’ll be glad you focused on this important component of health.