“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one." -- Unknown
You already know sleep is important, but you may not know how important. Doctors are now saying that sleep is as important to your health as the food you eat and the exercise you do. First, the bad news … Lack of sleep can result in weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, depression, premature aging and impaired thinking. Lack of sleep is also a primary cause of car accidents, with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reporting 250,000 sleep-related traffic accidents each year.
Sleep deprivation also can lead to weight gain. If you’ve ever had a sleepless night and the next day you were ravaged by hunger all day, your body has experienced the negative impact of a lack of sleep on your hormones. The hormones leptin and ghrelin are influenced by how much we sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. Your ghrelin levels rise and your appetite is stimulated so you want more food. The two combined make you overeat, according to the Mayo Clinic. I've experienced this many times due to my wacky work hours. When I'm sleep deprived, I tend to reach for snacks.
Now the good news … If you get enough sleep you can give your body time to repair and rejuvenate. Rest is your recharger, just like charging your cell phone. With seven hours of sleep most nights, your systems will work right! So, what can you do to make sure you aren’t counting sheep and jeopardizing your health?
Stick to a sleep schedule. When it comes to sleep, your body likes a routine—even on the weekend. Try to get into a habit of waking up and going to bed at the same time each morning and night. While your schedule may dictate burning the midnight oil or a super early rise, try to make those occurrences the exception rather than the rule.
Watch caffeine intake after 5 pm. If you enjoy a caffeinated cup of Green Tea in the evenings, it could be keeping you awake at night. Try a decaffeinated beverage or just switch to water in the evenings. Caffeine can easily disrupt your sleep or make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
Don’t convince yourself that you only need six hours. Everyone knows someone convinced that he or she only needs six hours of sleep. Truth be told, I was that person ... but age and exhaustion have taught me that sleep is as important for my body as eating my greens. The FACT is that everyone should aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night. When you are sleep deprived for an extended period of time, your judgment becomes impaired and you may think you need less than you do. When that happens, you aren’t even aware of the increased energy you could have if you got that extra hour of sleep.
Skip alcohol. Ever notice when you have a cocktail or two that you keep waking up during the night? It’s not a coincidence. Many people with insomnia use a glass of wine to try and induce sleep, but studies indicate that alcohol consumed within an hour of bedtime appears to disrupt the second half of sleep—you will wake up and have a more difficult time getting back to sleep. Alcohol’s impact on your sleep is thought to get worse if you regularly have a drink before going to bed. If you want quality sleep, skip the adult beverages.
See a physician if you are still tired. If you repeatedly feel tired after a night’s rest, it’s possible that you could suffer from sleep apnea, a condition where you stop breathing several times during the night and as a result, your body keeps waking you up. Left untreated, it’s a dangerous condition. See your doctor and find out if you need to go to a sleep lab to be tested. Advances in the treatment protocol, CPAP technology, have resulted in smaller, quieter and more comfortable devices. Many people no longer have sleep apnea once they lose those extra pounds.
Signal your body that it’s time to wind down. If you develop some regular routines before you go to bed, you can signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. If you read every night before you drift off to dreamland, you will begin to get tired when you pick up that book. Maybe you have a face washing regimen or you listen to calm music—just create some regulars that tell your body to slow down and that it’s almost time to go to sleep.
Make your environment is conducive to sleep. Most people sleep better in total darkness. Make sure you don’t have any iPhones beeping or lighting up in your bedroom. Shut down your laptop so it isn’t glowing in your room and pull down the blinds or shut your curtains. Being the technology lover I am, I had to teach myself to put the gadgets away so my mind could relax. The right sheets, pillows and comforter can dramatically improve your comfort and quality of sleep, so make sure you think your bed is comfortable. Also, avoid doing anything you consider stressful in your bedroom—like work. Make it a peaceful environment.
So rest up and let me know if these sleep tips worked for you! “A well-spent day brings happy sleep.” –Leonardo da Vinci
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