Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Some people love Daylight Savings Time.  I count myself among them.  Others don’t like it at all.

My son-in-law, for example, rises at 3:00 a.m. to go to work.  It’s still too light in the evening when he has to go to bed to get a decent amount of sleep before his early morning rising.

I notice that whatever camp you’re in on this issue, we all live with changing the clock twice a year, and we all spend a few days adjusting to the time change, in the spring and again in fall.  In general, we don’t like having to make changes in our routines, and sleep is an important enough routine that we are at least a little reactive to it when it is “adjusted” for us.

Sleep is a master remedy for all ills or difficulties.

If we don’t get the amount of sleep every night that our body needs, between 7 and 8 ½ hours, there will be a significant toll taken on our bodies.

Some of us – myself included – have periods when sleeping even 7 hours is a luxury – raising small children, writing papers or books when a deadline is involved, hammering out a big work project.  These sleep-deprived periods put us into some serious sleep debt.

The fact is, though, that you don’t have to be writing a book to be sleep deprived. Americans sleep about three hours less per day than they did150 years ago. We can thank our jam-packed schedules, constant caffeine boosts, grueling desk jobs, artificial light at night, and all the time we spend in front of screens of all shapes and sizes for the stress on our sleep requirements. The end result of these ongoing assaults to our sleep time is that we are aging faster than ever, probably way before our time. Read more about common sleep interrupters here.

Good sleep is an important component of a healthy lifestyle.

We sleep about1/3 of our lives, but most of us don’t spend much time thinking about it or getting enough of it. Sara Gottfried, a physician who writes prolifically about health, says in her new book Younger :

Sleep is like a gifted housecleaner who comes into your home while you’re away and tidies everything up, bringing peace of mind, clean surfaces, and folded bedsheets.  In short, a fresh start of biological reorganization. Beyond tidying up, the repair that occurs during sleep works wonders in every realm of your life.  It’s as close to a panacea as you’ll ever find. 

Deep sleep strengthens the immune system, thereby helping us to fend off most viruses and other ills. Our circadian rhythms are mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, primarily to light and darkness. When they are functioning properly, our bodies have time to regenerate physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Conversely, when we skimp on sleep, our systems are simply unable to run smoothly.

In fact, if you’re trying to lose weight and you are not getting adequate rest, there is likely a connection. Sleep deprivation is linked to obesity as well as chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more.

Getting sufficient sleep can seem like a monumental chore.  The older I get, the more I am sensing that I am running out of time, and there are so very many things I want to do and get done. Can you relate to that?  Certainly, there are many things that can get in the way of good sleep, at any age, and it is up to us to modify our lifestyle so that our very valuable health is not compromised by not sleeping enough.

Here are a few suggestions for improving the amount and quality of your sleep.

– Avoid stimulants – caffeine and anxious people. Both overstimulate your nervous system.

– Exercise in the morning, or at least before 1:00 pm.  If you do exercise later in the day, notice if doing so makes a difference in your sleep duration and/or quality.

– Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. (You shouldn’t be able to see your hand when you hold it in front of you.)

– Take a nap during the day for 20-30 minutes if you feel tired, or if you slept fewer than 7 hours the night before.

-Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day. This will help to keep you alert during the day and your ability to sleep at night.

– Finish eating about 3 hours before you go to bed, and avoid heavy foods – meats and fatty sauces – for dinner.  Choose fruits, vegetables, and some unprocessed grains. If your body has to work hard all night to digest food, your sleep may be impaired.

– Cultivate a regular and relaxing bedtime ritual. Soaking in a warm tub with Epsom salts, listening to soothing music, reading, and journaling can all play a part here, but however your ritual takes shape, begin it about an hour before you want to be asleep.

– Sleep on your side. This position helps to flush out damaging and toxic molecules.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” The Dalai Lama claims that sleep is the best meditation. Skipping sleep now will mean consequences later. It is well worth your while to pay as much attention to your sleep as to your food.  It’s all about being respectful and reverent to your wonderful body.  Sleep well!

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