Sleep enables us to put our best selves forward, to meet the day and its challenges with open hearts and open minds. It is crucial for physical, mental, and emotional health. Doctors recommend seven to eight hours per night for the average adult and more for children. Sleep ensures optimal brain function; it opens pathways for memory, learning, decision-making, problem solving and attention. The physical benefits of proper sleep are also significant: hormonal balance, heart and blood vessel repair, weight regulation, and immune system strength, to name a few.
What Lack of Sleep Can Do to Your Health?
Despite the numerous benefits of good sleep, many of us simply do not get enough of it. Man is the only mammal that willingly delays sleep, and over time, this is harmful. We should take a lesson from our animal brethren, and follow our circadian rhythms—the cycles that control the physiological processes of all living organisms, humans included.
- Failing to do so could result in the symptoms of of insufficient sleep, such as:
- Drowsiness during the day when engaged in normal activities.
- Inefficiency at various tasks.
- Poor memory.
And the deficits are cumulative—so the longer you suffer from sleep deprivation, the more severe the symptoms can become. Over time, insufficient sleep can wreak havoc on your health. It can lead to conditions like:
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Are You Sleep Deprived?
- To determine whether you are sleep deprived, ask yourself:
- Does it take much longer or shorter than 15 minutes for you to fall asleep?
- Do you snore and does that interrupt your sleep?
- Do you feel tired when you awaken in the morning?
- Is there a difference in your sleep patterns during the week vs weekend?
- Is your sex drive is lower than normal?
- Do you feel stressed out by minor inconveniences?
- Do you struggle to remember details which you would normally remember?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may be suffering from a sleep deficit. It is advisable to discuss this with your physician who can prescribe a treatment plan to get your sleep back on track.
7 Sleep-Promoting Tips to Follow:
While you await your doctor’s advice, there are a few healthy sleep-enhancing strategies you can follow.
- Maintain a regular schedule, retiring, and awakening at the same time each day. Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine before bed. In fact, try to lay off caffeine after 2 pm as it takes 4-6 hours for just half of it to leave your system after consumption.
- Eat a lighter meal in the evening, and consider adding more of a sleep-enhancing foods to your diet. Some items like nuts- especially walnuts and almonds- have naturally occurring melatonin, the sleep hormone. Others can increase serotonin levels to help you sleep better. They include complex carbs, eggs, spinach, salmon, seeds, and soy.
- Try to wind down as your bedtime nears; avoid strenuous exercise, loud music, movies/tv/screens. Instead, practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques to calm your mind and encourage your body to sleep.
- Take a warm bath scented with a sleep-enhancing aromatic such as lavender or Clary sage.
- Exercise regularly during the day, and try to get plenty of natural light.
- Create a bedroom that induces sleep. Use a mattress that has an even surface to sleep on so that each part of your body is properly supported. When sleeping on the side, place a pillow between your knees so that your spine is aligned. If you’re a back sleeper, put a pillow under your knees for the same reason. Dim the lights to encourage your body to progress towards sleep. You should also set the thermostat to between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit as a cool temperature signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.
Don’t let sleep deprivation get the better of your health. Take back control and give yourself the rest you deserve. These strategies, coupled with medical intervention if necessary, can make an enormous difference in improving your sleep patterns, and consequently, your overall health and wellbeing.
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Published on Friday, May 4, 2018
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