Are you getting enough sleep? At this time of year, it may be unlikely – the holiday season is the busiest time of year for many of us. But we need to understand how important enough, good quality sleep is to our health, and to minimize sleep deficits as much as possible.
Most of us know at least one person who seems to function perfectly well on very little sleep. While a few people can do this for many years before the ill effects become obvious, most eventually pay the price of their health at a relatively young age.
We need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep per night on a consistent basis, and some people may need a little more. Preschool children need more sleep – about 10 to 12 hours a night, and school aged children and teenagers, about 9 hours.
For a long time sleep was considered a time when nothing happened. Now we know that’s far from true. There are 5 stages of sleep, and different things happen during each stage. For example, some stages are necessary so that we feel rested and energetic the next day, and other stages help us learn or consolidate memories.
Stages 1 – 4 are non-REM (rapid eye movement).
- High blood pressure has been associated with short sleep duration. A study of nearly 5,000 participants over 10 years found that those who got 5 hours or less of sleep per night were more than twice as likely to develop hypertension as those who got 7 to 8 hours per night.
- Sleep apnea is a disorder that interrupts sleep repeatedly during the night, as the person with the disorder stops breathing and wakes up. People with severe sleep apnea have 2.5 times the risk of ischemic stroke (involving a blood clot in the brain) of those who do not have this disorder, or who have a milder version of the disorder. Note: Sleep apnea can be treated.
- Poor sleep has been associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, and also with making its treatment more problematic.
- Lack of sleep (5 hours or less) is associated with weight gain even when people consume fewer calories than those who get enough sleep (at least 7 hours), and when a difference in level of physical activity is not a factor.
- However, it’s normal to feel hungrier and to eat more when we’re tired, thus adding to the weight that’s gained then.
- A 39% higher risk of heart attack has been associated with 5 hours of sleep per night or less in the Nurses’ Health Study, where about 70,000 women were followed up for 10 years.
- Lack of sleep adversely affects our immune systems, making us more vulnerable to viruses, bacteria, and even cancer.
- Lack of sleep can simply make us tired and cranky. Small problems seem huge when we’re tired.
- In more extreme cases, long term lack of sleep can contribute to depression.
The Benefits of Enough Sleep
- You avoid the ill effects listed above.
- The body heals and repairs itself during sleep.
- Enough sleep helps you stay (or get) slim.
- Adequate sleep helps to keep your immune system functioning optimally.
- You are in a better mood and when you’ve had enough sleep.
- You have a better memory and better mental clarity when you’re rested.
- You have more energy.
Tips for Sleeping Better
- Get regular exercise during the day, but not too close to bedtime – finish vigorous exercise at least 3 hours before going to bed.
- Avoid drinking alcohol, and, of course, caffeinated beverages, too late in the evening. Alcohol may cause initial drowsiness, but will disrupt sleep during the night.
- Be sure you are not taking medication containing caffeine close to bedtime.
- Don’t eat dinner too late in the evening if you’re prone to heartburn. When Swiss scientists fed men and women dinner at 6:00 p.m. they found that their stomach acid was, on average, 20% lower than people who ate dinner at 9:00 p.m.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet, with a minimum of refined sugars which are stimulating.
- Establish a regular sleep routine, even on weekends. Going to bed and getting up at the same times each day can help ensure better sleep.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep and intimacy, not as an office or for watching TV. Reading to relax is OK, but avoid anything challenging or exciting.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature – slightly cool is best.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. There are many new materials on the market. If your bedding is more than 7 or 8 years old, you may need to replace it.
- Avoid upsetting or stimulating activities, such as work-related papers, jarring TV shows, or the news right before you go to bed.
- Try taking a warm bath to relax.
- If you’re anxious about the next day, make a to-do list – organizing your thoughts will help to relax you, as will knowing that you have a plan.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself awake for more than 20 minutes, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Treat any underlying chronic conditions that may be keeping you awake, e.g. conditions that cause pain or make it hard to breathe, gastrointestinal disorders, restless legs syndrome etc.
- Melatonin Extra is a unique combination designed to promote sleep, control other cerebral disorders, maintain brain function and reduce the effects of stress. At night, the pineal gland produces melatonin - a hormone that plays a vital role in aging, energy, and sleep - but as people age, they produce less and less melatonin.
- Unlike other melatonin products on the market, Nature’s Sunshine’s Melatonin Extra has added ingredients to support the action of melatonin itself by providing circulation and central nervous system support.
- Beyond promoting sleep as with other melatonin supplements, Melatonin Extra has the advantage of calming the body and promoting oxygenation, so that you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.
- It’s helpful to take calcium and magnesium together with vitamin D at bedtime. They help relax muscles, and reduce the likelihood of muscles twitches and cramps as you drift off to sleep. High quality calcium, magnesium and vitamin D supplements are also produced by Nature’s Sunshine.
- RE-X: is a sedative and tranquilizing formula designed to reduce the effects of emotional upset, nervous tension, and excessive stress upon the body. This Nature’s Sunshine formula is traditionally used to help stop your thoughts from racing when you’re trying to fall asleep.
For additional information, please email email@example.com; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue sharing our newsletters with friends and family. Visit our web site at http://ramilashealingartsclinic.com/index for back issues of this newsletter, to order products (new!)
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
1)Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. NIH Publication No. 06-5800, April 2006.
2)The different stages of sleep. Holistic online.com http://www.holisticonline.com/remedies/sleep/sleep_stages-1-4NREM.htm and http://www.holisticonline.com/remedies/sleep/sleep_stages-REM.htm Accessed December 7, 2010.
3) Cherry K. Stages of sleep About.com Psychology. http://psychology.about.com/od/statesofconsciousness/a/SleepStages.htm?p=1 Accessed December 7, 2010.
4) A wake-up call on sleep and health. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter Supplement 2007;24(12):1-4.
5) And to all a good night: how sleep deprivation may lead to chronic disease. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter Supplement 2004;22(8):1-4.
6) Getting enough sleep helps you stay slim. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2005;22(11):2.
These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.
Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic