I am inspired to write this article right now because I didn’t sleep well last night. I have have only accumulated 45 minutes of slumber all night. The immediate consequence of this is I’m drinking a lot of caffeine, I’m hungry but only want carbs and I can’t think very clearly. I’m used to going with less sleep than I need. Just because I’m “trained” to get by with five hours of sleep a night doesn’t mean that it is good for me. It also doesn’t mean that I can acclimate to this amount of sleep and have all systems functioning perfectly. Nope. We need to sleep. Some need more than others. I know from experience that I need seven hours of sleep a night. You might know how much you need. If so, do everything within your power to get that much every night. It’s not something you can make up for over the weekend.
Why is sleep so important and why shouldn’t we sleep less if we can get to a point where we feel fine with it?
I know you’ve heard most of these before, so I’ll make it brief. My main objective is to remind you to sleep as much as you need for optimum health and healing. Frequently, sleep is sacrificed when life gets busy. Athletes, who depend on their bodies to allow them to perform at peak condition in their sport, will neglect sleep as an important tool to improving their ability to perform. Regular folk need sleep also.
When a person does not receive enough sleep, their body is in a state of stress. Lack of sleep disrupts every physiological function of the body. We are not able to adapt to less sleep than we need. A sleep deficit will put the body into a state of high alert, increasing the production of stress hormones and driving up blood pressure which is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.
Sleep deprivation hinders your weight loss efforts
When a person is tired they do not handle stress very well and use food as a coping mechanism. Usually the type of food eaten is of the carbohydrate or sugar variety. This is because carbs, and sugar in particular, stimulate the body and give it quick energy. Yes, that energy burns off very quickly and the person will most likely feel worse for it and will soon reach for more.
Sleep deprivation also causes elevated levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, which makes you feel hungrier than you should be. So not only are you making unhealthy choices, but you are eating more of it.
But how do we know how much we need?
Experiment by adding 15 minutes of sleep to your night until you find the amount of time that is right for you. You should wake up feeling refreshed – not groggy or still sleepy.
Experts recommend the following sleep management habits:
- Have a regular sleep schedule.
- Have a regular bedtime routine.
- Make sure your bedroom is comfortable.
- Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
- Use your bedroom for sleeping only – not working or watching TV.
- Avoid naps if they keep you from sleeping at night. Or keep naps short.
- Listen to relaxing music or audio books.
- Avoid caffeine and high-energy meals (pasta) in the later part of the day.
- Avoid exercise within 2 to 3 hours of bed, if this disrupts sleep.
- Be consistent. Keep a sleep log.
- The FitBit is a great tool for tracking your sleep.
I find when I have trouble sleeping that a little bit of exercise, such as pushups, crunches, etc. and stretching will help me drift off much easier. This is because the exercise burns off any potential energy I have stored up and it warms the body. The stretching relaxes those warm muscles. Then when I lay down in bed I melt right in and drift off.
It is important not to force sleep. It can’t be wrestled to the ground and conquered. It must be wooed. Think of sleep as an elegant woman you want to date. Treat her respectfully, with tender loving hands and a soothing voice. Pour her a warm bath with salts and suds and smooth jazz. If you give her reason to trust you, then maybe she’ll let you sleep with her.
Sleep – It’s More Important Than You Think.
Now You Know.
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