Sleep is the linchpin to our health and probably the most overlooked too. Data suggest that we’ve reduced the average amount of time we sleep by 20 percent and this deprivation is taking a serious toll on our health. Chronic lack of sleep affects daily performance, overall productivity, and long- and short-term health.
We know the main function of sleep seems to be to refresh our brains, but it also affects many bodily systems, including metabolism, hormones and immune function.
The amount of sleep we get has a direct bearing on:
- Coronary heart disease
- Immune function
- Cognitive performance
There’s also evidence motor skill improvement depends on sleep because the sleeping brain reprocesses recent memory patterns involving these skills.
A sleep debt of only three or four hours (which many of us regularly rack up during a busy week) can lead to metabolic changes that mimic a pre-diabetic state and hormonal changes that compare with depression.
Probably the worst part is we don’t even know we’re not getting enough sleep. Many of us who think we’re getting enough sleep really aren’t, and our performance is affected even though we’re unaware of our diminished abilities.
We recommend getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. How do we get more and better sleep?
- Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
- Sleep in a dark, cool room
- Take a warm (not hot) bath an hour before bedtime.
- Exercise more than four hours before bedtime.
- Minimize alcohol consumption.
- Avoid caffeine 8 to 12 hours before bedtime.
- Don’t go to bed with an over-full stomach.
- If you have an evening snack, include a complex carbohydrate and/or dairy, like a small piece of toast with peanut butter or a small bowl of whole-grain cereal with milk.
- Make sure you have a comfy, supportive pillow.
- Wait to go to bed until you’re actually sleepy.
- Use your bed for sleep and intimacy only.
- Stop screen time at least an hour before bed.
- If you’re worried or preoccupied with something, keep paper and pen next to your bed so you can write it down and then let your brain rest.
We wish you happy, plentiful sleep!