The Importance of Sleep for Health
“… there will be enough sleeping in the grave..” –Benjamin Franklin
The world we live in is fast paced, full of coffee and sleep deprived. We celebrate those who can work on little to no sleep and caffeinate all the others. In business we push to get more done in a days time and we value and admire those who say they work all night. Even old Ben seemed to feel sleep was a waste of time. In addition to famous quotes on the subject we also coin our own cute little phrases like “You can sleep when you’re dead”. These serve to encourage us to believe that this lack of sleep is worth something, that there’s a bigger payoff in the end. But is there?
One thing that we don’t see popping up in conversation is how a human can go without food longer than they can go without sleep. Or that lack of sleep can cause heart problems, weight gain and memory loss, to name a few. These are the byproducts of less sleep and like most negative and depressing side effects, we conveniently brush them to the side.
Sleep is one of the few consistent pillars of wellness and unlike some of the other areas of health, the need for sleep has never changed. There are no sleep “diets” or sleep short cuts. There is only one way to fill the need, and that is to sleep. In our world of fast fixes and life hacks, this makes sleep less exciting to work on. But truly sleep can have the strongest impact on health, and if taken seriously, be the difference between good health and poor.
Sleep is the time when our body hits the refresh button. This is when we physically repair ourselves and when we mentally clean house. We sleep in 90 minute cycles and have approximately five cycles a night. There are different stages of sleep in each cycle. The two most important stages are deep sleep and REM sleep.
Deep sleep is the physical restoration stage and is what makes us feel the most rested the next day. This is what happens in deep sleep:
REM sleep is dream time. This is also when our brain does a sweep through and tidies things up. This is what is going on in this stage:
Tips for better Sleep
1. Eliminate blue light in the bedroom, think electronic devices. This blue light inhibits melatonin production; which is the sleep hormone that helps with sleep cycles.
2. Hide the clock. Looking at a bright red digital time piece only adds anxiety and increases sleeplessness. Cover the clock on the T.V, get a non-light up alarm, or turn your clock the other way.
3. Sleep in darkness. This is especially important if you work at night and sleep during the day. Darkness is what helps our body produce melatonin. If you have a bright room you can buy black out curtains, use a sleep mask, or cover your windows in tinfoil.
4. Wake up at the same time. This is more important even than going to bed at the same time. To figure out your best bedtime determine your desired wakeup time and count back 7.5 hours. This is when you want to be falling asleep.
5. Plan your bedtime routine. Whatever you do at night try to give yourself 20-30 minutes of down time before you fall asleep. This needs to not excite your mind. That means no social media or the latest thriller, maybe try deep breathing, prayer or some stretching.
6. Keep it cool. 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature to have your room set at for optimal sleep. Use a fan on those hot summer nights and ditch the extra blankets on those cool fall evenings.
7. Get some sunshine! If possible get 15 minutes of direct sunlight in the morning. Stand outside with your coffee, or roll the window down on your way to work. If sunlight is not possible consider getting a light box. Place it on your desk or set it in the bathroom and turn it on for 15 minutes. Or even consider special light bulbs for your bathroom. See the next editions article for where to find these.
With that I will say Good Night and watch for part two in Januarys edition of In Mag to find out what the signs of sleep deprivation are and how to pay back your sleep debt.
Sleep Smarter, 21 Essentia strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson
The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington
The Sleep Doctors Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep, by Michael Breus PhD
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