Sleep, my one big demon. I usually have problems getting up early because I can’t go to bed at night! I’m sure I’m not the only one that suffers from such a phenomenon. I did some research on how we can all get some better sleep.
North Americans spend $32 billion dollars per year in the sleep industry. That’s $32 billion dollars that caters to the 44% of North Americans that have problems sleeping. Sleep sufferers turn to products including sleep masks, mattresses, white noise fans, prescription and over the counter medication, and even whale soundtracks for relief. Read below to get the facts on why sleep is critical to overall health and how to make sure you are getting your daily dose.
Finding Your Sleep Blueprint
There is not a one-size-fits-all amount of time that everyone needs to sleep. You will not necessarily need the same amount of rest as your best friend who may be the same age and gender. Although the spectrum for adults is between 7-9 hours nightly, several lifestyle and health factors need to be considered such as:
-Daily caffeine intake
-At risk for a disease
-Suffering from obesity
-Suffering from sleep problems
All of these factors are part of the equation for a person’s basal sleep need and sleep debt. The basal sleep need is each person’s individual sleep that it needs to function properly and efficiently. The sleep debt is the accrual of lost sleep due to sickness (including obesity related problems), environmental factors (such as too much light exposure in the late evening), or other causes (such as too much caffeine).
The key to idenitfying your particular sleep blueprint is to listen to your body. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), a study from 2005 revealed that sleep is completely indivual and fluctuates greatly across the population. Currently, research is being done that hopes to classify the genetic traits that dictate our indivual sleep needs.
In the meantime, consider keeping a sleep diary for a small amount of time. Record how you feel on a day after you slept 7 hours per night versus 8 or 9. Note your stress level, how much caffeine you consumed and what time you consumed it. Write down how you physically felt (Invigorated? Lethargic?). This will give you a tangible tool to see what works for a restful night.
Sleep to Reap the Rewards
Below are 7 wonderful reasons for getting a great night’s sleep:
1. Greater life expectancy
People that cheat themselves on sleep tend to have a shorter lifespan. People that habitually sleep less than six hours a night have an increased risk of dying sooner than people of a similar age who are able to get seven or eight hours a night.
2. Stronger immune system
A sleep deficit compromises the immune system and puts you at greater risk for infections and disease. According to a 2009 Carnegie Mellon University study, researchers discovered a direct correlation between an increased vulnerability to catching a cold and getting less than seven hours of sleep per night.
3. Maintaining a healthy weight
Keeping a healthy weight starts with maintaining adequate sleep patterns. Researchers at the Uppsala University of Sweden claim that when your body is not getting enough rest, your metabolism slows down and causes weight gain.
4. Get happy
When a person does not properly recharge their batteries, they wake up feeling irritable. This was confirmed by a poll that claimed that close to 66% of people blame morning irritability and poor mood on lack of sleep.
5. Better cognitive function
Insufficient sleep is like a domino effect all day. When you wake up tired, you are mentally struggling, have problems concentrating, and your day goes gradually downhill.
6. Curb Inflammation
A little known fact: C-reactive protein (CRP) inflammatory levels are higher in people who habitually only get six or less hours of sleep per night. This is significant since inflammation is directly linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging.
7. Getting Your Beauty Sleep
Researchers in a 2010 British Medical Journal study took photos of two groups of people. One group was photographed after sleep deprivation and the other after 8 hours of sleep. Not surprisingly, the 65 people polled found the well-rested group much more attractive.
Institute a Good Sleep Hygiene
If there is one thing that sleep experts agree on, it is that establishing a good sleep hygiene is crucial. Sleep hygiene is best defined as practices and habits that lead to regular, restful, and uninterrupted sleep.
Consider this S-L-E-E-P acronym. Try the following steps to get started:
S-Schedule your sleep, like any other everyday task. That includes going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. Establish a bedtime ritual. Reading a book, listening to relaxing music or taking a warm bath or shower are great ways to wind down.
L-Light your home appropriately. Use a bright light in the morning to establish a routine to tell your body that it is time to wake up. Use dimmer lights in the evening to relax and prep your body for bed.
E-Exercise regularly. Of course a vigorous cardio workout is best, but even low-intensity workouts are better than nothing. According to the NSF, over 66% of vigorous exercisers claim they rarely or never had insomnia-related problems, including waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep and difficulty falling asleep. The group that never exercised experienced waking up during the night 50% of the time, and 24% of the group had difficulty falling asleep every night or almost every night. Also, 61% of the non-exercise group claim they rarely or never have a good night’s sleep on work nights.
E-Establish an environment that is conducive for a good night’s rest. The optimal bedroom is dark and cool, quiet, and equipped with a comfortable mattress and supportive pillows. Aim for a temperature somewhere between 55 and 75 degrees; a lower or higher temperature will disrupt sleep.
P-Put your electronics away. A bedroom needs to be used to rest only. Having distractions such as TVs, computers, and work in the bedroom are huge culprits for sleep deprivation. Violent shows, news reports and stories before bedtime can be agitating.
-If you tend to have a mind that races a mile a minute when you close your eyes, consider having a small notebook and pen next to your bed. This will allow you to immediately jot down whatever is cluttering your mind.
-If you cannot sleep, do not stay in bed. Go into another room and do something relaxing (like reading) until you feel sleepy.
Tell me about your sleep problems at night in the comments below. We can perhaps solve it together 🙂