The other day I created a post on Facebook asking people to like the comment if they got 8 hours sleep per night or comment if they got anything else.
I was not surprised to find out that more than half of the people that commented had less than 8 hours sleep in a night. Those that did have less than 8 hours sleep said that it is something that is ongoing. To me, that’s actually a pretty scary thought.
Why is sleep so darn important anyway?
Lack of sleep is detrimental to your health and it’s more than just going through your day tired, it will actually impair your cognitive and motor response. Making sure you are getting enough sleep as important as eating nutrient-dense foods and keeping your body strong.
In case you are interested, the following is taken from a study where it concludes that after 17-19 hours without sleep your performance levels are equivalent to someone who is past the legal limit for alcohol intoxication.
RESULTS—After 17-19 hours without sleep, corresponding to 2230 and 0100, performance on some tests was equivalent or worse than that at a BAC of 0.05%. Response speeds were up to 50% slower for some tests and accuracy measures were significantly poorer than at this level of alcohol. After longer periods without sleep, performance reached levels equivalent to the maximum alcohol dose given to subjects (BAC of 0.1%).
CONCLUSIONS—These findings reinforce the evidence that the fatigue of sleep deprivation is an important factor likely to compromise performance of speed and accuracy of the kind needed for safety on the road and in other industrial settings.
That’s a sobering thought!
If having lack of sleep is equivalent to being intoxicated then wouldn’t you think that over time that would have other negative effects on the body?
Sleep restores everything in our body from our immune system, it balances out our hormones, helps our muscles recover; and we need that sleep in order to file away all the information that comes at us throughout the day. Sleep plays a major role in our metabolism including regulating insulin and blood sugar levels. If you are consistently not getting enough sleep, it can actually make you gain fat and develop diabetes not to mention, you could be a danger if you operate equipment including driving a car.
The benefits of more sleep:
- Regulates blood sugar
- Going to bed after midnight actually increases your likelihood of obesity.
- Less tempted for late night snacks.
- Have you ever grabbed a healthy snack at night as you’re watching The Late Show?
- Feel more energetic and livelier.
- Abnormal circadian rhythms have been associated with depression bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder. We need to have the sun.
Okay, so now we know the benefits of sleep, how do we get it?
Create a bedtime routine
- Decide on a bedtime and start planning ahead 1 to 2 hours before that time. You can’t go from 0 to 60 first thing in the morning what makes you think that you can go from 60 – 0 as soon as your head hits the pillow?
- No matter what you may think, that coffee that you had to have in the afternoon could still be keeping you up at night. Limit your coffee to the morning.
- If you’re like me, you have a million and one things running through your brain all the time. Before going to bed, as part of your sleep ritual, do a brain dump. Write down all those things that you need to do or that you’ve been thinking about.
- Shut down the electronics. You might think that looking at Facebook or other social media is relaxing, but in actuality, it is stimulating to our brains. Have you heard of blue light? It comes from the screens and can wreak havoc on our circadian rhythms.
- Make yourself a tea and read a book. An herbal tea and a great novel may be just what you need to calm your brain and ready your body for dreamland.
- Turn off your devices or at least turn off the sound. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to ignore a notification or a message coming in?
- Turn the temperature down. It’s so much easier to get a deep restful sleep when the room is cooler.
- Take a bath with epsom salts. Epsom salts contain magnesium and it calms your body and makes it easy to drift off. Magnesium is also wonderful if you suffer from restless leg syndrome.
- Make your room as dark as you can. Darkness tells your body it’s time to go to sleep.
- If you live somewhere where there is a lot of outside noise, try turning the fan on or using a machine for white noise.
Do your best to create your own sleep ritual by using the various tips above. It will take time and practice. Be patient.
When a sleep ritual isn’t enough there could be something else preventing you from getting your zzzzzzz’s. Are Hormones Keeping You Awake?