Do You Sleep Much?

Millions of people across the world suffer from lack of sleep, never knowing how it affects their health on a daily basis. Most people have no idea how important sleep is to healthy living.

Neil Stanley, of the Research Unit at Surrey University says: “We know good sleep is central to good health. It is wrong to perceive sleep as a passive state of unconsciousness.  The body is doing an awful lot while we sleep.”

The circadian rhythm, otherwise known as the “body clock,” coordinates our daily wake/sleep cycle. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, your body becomes stressed, causing loss of muscle tone and weight gain. Sleep is not “down time,” but rather an active and vital part of your daily life.

There are at least five stages of sleep. Each stage is essential for rest and hormonal releases that help build muscle and strengthen the immune system. The refreshing sleep you need requires a consistent pattern of sleep and wake times. By not maintaining a consistent sleep routine, you are robbing yourself of your body’s natural healing abilities.

Many proudly proclaim that they can exist on five to six hours a night and catch up on sleep later on.  The fact is, not one really ever catches up on sleep that is lost. Sleep that is lost is never regained.

When you don’t get enough sleep it is impossible for your body to perform as it was intended to. Your mind has a tendency to be dull, easily distracted, and struggles to concentrate on task.  While sleep deprived you are less patient, more irritable and less productive.

The good news is, there are a number of things you can do during the day to improve your night’s sleep! Assuming there are no underlying causes like a sleep disorder.  (Man, can I tell you about that…Check out my NS Reds Nocturnal Sleep Related Eating Disorder.)

Here is my top ten list for sleeping better at night:
1. Keep it relatively quiet while you sleep. If you need to drown out noise use a fan or a white noise device that generates calming sounds. These devices help drown out disruptive noises. Phone ringers should be turned off completely until morning.
2. Take a long warm bath or shower.  These can help you de-stress and increase your chances of sleeping well. Relaxed muscles mean relaxing sleep.  Also, many people find that reading for a short time helps them get to sleep.

3. Develop a regular bedtime routine allowing 8 hours of sleep. Maintain your sleep schedule on your working and non-working days. You will feel better if you don’t completely change your sleep times. Alter your sleep and wake time by only a couple of hours on your days off. Your body clock is negatively affected when you change up your sleep patterns.

4. Sleep in a dark room. Darkness tells your body that it is time to sleep. Don’t go to sleep with the television on, as this interrupts deeper sleep cycles. Even dim lights can rob your ability to sleep. In the morning slightly open blinds to let natural light enter the room. This will help signal the body that it is time to wake. Sit in front of a large window for half an hour or so during breakfast. The sunlight signals your circadian cycle into the wake phase, increasing metabolic activity and alertness.

5. Exercise more, as it reduces anxiety and aids in sleep.  A number of recent reports suggest that even moderate exercise can improve insomnia.  Aerobic exercise like walking during the day helps to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. Being active helps maintain circadian rhythm and encourages deeper sleep.

6. Don’t eat a big meal right before bed.
Many sleep experts believe that eating a big meal before bed can cause insomnia. Larger meals should be consumed earlier in the day. Ideally, a light snack of less than 150 calories of an evening is best.

7. Cut Caffeine later in the day.
Caffeine intake of an evening can lead to difficulty sleeping. Limit coffee to one to two cups early in the day.  During the evening, instead of caffeinated sodas have a warm, relaxing decaf herbal tea.

8. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. According to James Maas, author of Power Sleep, staying hydrated helps the body heal and recover more quickly. This is yet another reason to drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Avoid caffeinated beverages, such as cola, which can not only keep you awake, but dehydrate you at the same time.

9. Try wearing ear plugs. Earplugs block noise from entering your ears, and can allow you to relax your breathing patterns.  Most earplugs are an inexpensive remedy and help a lot of people get to sleep faster.  I swear by them!

10. Don’t rely on sleep aids. While sleep aids could work for a time, they are at best a short term fix.  Insomnia is often a part of a larger lifestyle picture that can be addressed and fixed once and for all.  Experts say that reducing stress and late night calories, and increasing physical activity may be the best long term solutions to restful sleep.

So go ahead and give these a try. You have nothing to lose and much rest to gain! They are proven to give you the rejuvenating sleep your body needs for a healthier and happier you.

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