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You may need more sleep than you think

October 14, 2020

Guest blog: Melodee Melero, A.S., Siskin Health & Fitness Center
Wellness Expertise

You already know how poor sleep or lack of sleep can lead to a groggy day and poor performance. Read on to learn just how important sleep is, how you can know if you’ve gotten enough sleep, and some tips to form good sleeping habits.

Importance of sleep

We humans spend a whopping one-third of our lives sleeping. During sleep, memories and skills are strengthened by a process called consolidation. Our sleep is also involved in the repair of heart and blood vessels; adequate sleep is necessary to decrease risk for heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin), and that control insulin, thereby helping ward off risk of diabetes. Adequate sleep required for a healthy immune system, and it’s crucial for proper daytime performance and safety.

Symptoms of deprivation

How do you know when you’re not getting enough quality sleep? You may:

  • Not feel alert and refreshed upon waking
  • Lapse into microsleep (brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re normally awake)
  • Have difficulty learning, focusing, and reacting
  • Have trouble making decisions, solving problems, remembering things, controlling emotions and behavior, and coping with change

Physiological consequences of lack of sleep

When your sleep is poor or inadequate, your body will suffer. You are at higher risk of:

  • Weight gain
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Decreased fertility
  • Lowered immune system
  • Decreased ability to grow and repair tissues
  • Impaired reaction time and thinking skills that could lead to tragic accidents

How to improve your sleep

Make friends with your Circadian rhythm! The Circadian rhythm refers to the body’s internal clock within a 24-hour cycle. This clock runs in the background to carry out essential functions and processes – one of the most important being the sleep-wake cycle. A very effective way to reset your internal clock is to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day (including weekends). Additionally, you can:

  • Use the hour before bedtime as quiet time
  • Avoid bright light and strenuous activity before bedtime
  • Avoid heavy meals a couple of hours before bedtime
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks, nicotine, and caffeine before bedtime (nicotine and caffeine up to 8 hours before bedtime)
  • Keep the bedroom quiet, dark, cool and free of clutter
  • Use relaxation techniques (e.g., hot bath, stretching or bedtime yoga, warm milk, sleepy time tea, etc.)
  • Limit naps or take them earlier in the day. Adults should nap no longer than 20 minutes.
  • Get outside as much as possible and include regular physical activity and exercise

Special tips for night shift workers

  • Take naps and allow extra time for sleep
  • Keep lights bright at work
  • Limit caffeine to the first part of your shift
  • Remove sound and light distractions in the bedroom (consider blackout curtains)

How does the end to daylight savings time affect sleep?

It can be hard to adjust to staying up an hour later and getting up an hour later. Since sleep is regulated by exposure to the sun, the tendency to sleep more in the fall and winter when days are shorter is to be expected. Here’s how to make this transition easier:

  • Make gradual shifts. Roughly 10 days before falling back, go to bed and wake up 10-15 minutes later each day.
  • Have a nighttime ritual – it’s helpful for adults as well as children and creates a powerful signal for sleep.
  • Resist the urge to nap or take shorter naps. Stepping into the sun can help stimulate your body and retrain your internal clock.
  • Use light to regulate your internal clock by exposing yourself to bright light or sun in the morning and limiting the exposure to light at night. Even consider installing a nightlight to avoid having to turn on a bright overhead light during nocturnal bathroom visits.

Sleep is vital when it comes to good health, productivity, and safety. The fall-back time change can be hard, but with a little pre-planning, good sleep hygiene, regular exercise, and schedule adherence, the transition will be easier and you’ll be creating habits for a lifetime of good sleep.

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To learn more about how to take charge of your health and fitness, call the Siskin Health & Fitness Center: (423) 634-1234.