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.
So that’s the good news. But the bad news is that many of us simply do not get enough sleep. 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 insufficient sleep, such as:
And the deficits are cumulative-so the longer you suffer from sleep deprivation, the more severe the symptoms can become.
To determine whether you are sleep deprived, ask yourself:
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If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may be suffering from a sleep deficit. It is advisable to discuss this with your physician. In the meantime, consider these simple, healthy sleep enhancing strategies:
These strategies, coupled with medical intervention if necessary, can make an enormous difference in improving our sleep patterns, and consequently, our overall health and wellbeing.