We all want to wake up feeling rested and refreshed from a good night’s sleep mind and body ready to dive into the day. Unfortunately, for many of us, that’s not how our mornings usually begin.
Millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep (for sometimes days at a time).
A good night’s rest impacts everything, so when you don’t get enough sleep, it can have an effect on your mood, metabolism, digestion, family relations, and even your job performance.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep or the ability to relax and rest through out the day. Both of these activities are vital if you are keen on maintaining your health long-term.
From your pillow to your diet to your bedtime, there are numerous things that can impact your sleep either good or bad. So the solution to getting a good night’s sleep is a sound strategy that you can easily do not just a bedtime… but all day long.
Good Sleep is Good For You
Up until about the early 1960s the average sleep duration was 9 hours. Now the current average sleep time is 7.5 hours and 1/3 of population sleeps 6 hours or less.
This means that a good number of people are not getting enough sleep and they are not performing at their best (or healthiest!).
You need good sleep because it…
- Affects blood sugar metabolism and risk for Type 2 Diabetes
- Balances key hormones in the body like cortisol, melatonin, and growth hormone
- Important for various aspects of brain function
- Modulates your appetite and weight
- Is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels
- Enhances your performance at work and play
- Is strongly linked to depression, particularly for those with a sleeping disorder.
The Human Body Clock
Your body follows a 24/7 biorhythm every day referred to as your body clock. This internal clock regulates the timing of periods of sleep and wakefulness throughout the day.
This intricate circadian clock is temperamental (and it should be) because it orchestrates your entire biology from the brain to heart and digestion to hormones.
In particular, your hormones communicate and work together during your sleep, to get your belly, brain, and energy working properly.
Sleep also regulates the production of growth hormone, which affects development and more importantly, repair of the body.
It also controls your hormones around eating, including higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite.
Getting enough sleep ensures your thyroid produces enough thyroid hormone, which is important for metabolic rate and weight management.
The Most Common Causes of Poor Sleep
There are a number of reasons that you may not sleep well at night. Some of these you can control if you make sleep a priority (not a convenience).
Sleep Apnea – about 25 Million U.S. adults have obstructive sleep apnea and it is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness. This disorder causes fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels, which may lead to a host of other chronic conditions.
Poor Sleep Equipment – many people wake up with soreness, stiffness, and discomfort first thing in the morning. The culprits responsible for your fitful sleep might just be your mattress or pillow. Despite spending a third of our lives sleeping, many of us haven’t adequately prepared by having the right foundational sleeping equipment.
Inflammation – is also seen as a reason for waking up feeling uncomfortable and drowsy. Individuals prone to inflammatory conditions like the elderly, those with preexisting conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disease, and veterans, have a harder time getting and staying asleep. Studies have shown relationship between inflammatory markers and disrupted sleep or sleep disorders.1
Too Little or Too Much Exercise – according to sport fitness professionals, insomnia is one of the first symptoms of over-training. Over-exercising significantly affects your stress hormones and may not allow you to wind down or completely relax, making sleep much less effective. On the flip side, getting the right amount and kind of exercise may reduce sleep disturbance because of its effects on your circadian rhythm (body clock).
Stress in Waking Life – is a big contributor to poor sleep, insomnia and nightmare activity during sleep. You lie in bed, worrying and feeling anxious, which makes it almost impossible to relax and quiet your mind enough to fall asleep (and stay asleep!).
Diet – eating or drinking too many stimulants can prevent your body from relaxing at night. Stimulants are things like caffeine products (coffee, soda, and some tea) and alcohol. Also when you eat a heavy meal close to bedtime even a few hours before your body is working to digest it long into the night. And if your body is up working all night long, so are you.
Bad dreams – nightmare disorder is a clinically recognized sleep disorder. They can wake you up in a fright or leave you feeling a little off the next morning. Often times depression, anxiety, and even PTSD are triggers for scary dreams.
Sleep Reduces Your Work Productivity
How much and how well you sleep have tremendous impact on work productivity, performance, safety, and morale.
Sleep problems cost many tens of billions of dollars each year to the U.S. economy. These costs accrue in several ways: missed workdays, reduced productivity, higher rates of accident and injury, and greater reliance on health-care services.
Just being a little sleep deprived impairs cognitive and motor skills. This is shown in the statistics noting that sleep deprived, people perform as poorly as those whose blood alcohol levels render them legally too drunk to drive.2
Lack of sleep also impairs your ability to empathize with others, makes you less inclined to work cooperatively, and contributes to a more negative outlook on the job.
Getting poor sleep is directly responsible for at least 13% of work injuries with the number of injuries being higher for women compared to men.3 Unfortunately 20% of all motor vehicle accidents, including job-related, is attributed to lack of sleep.
5 Strategies To Getting Better Sleep
There are some simple things you can do to get consistent good sleep day in and day out. It starts with creating a Sleep Plan. Here are some tips that you should try to do for at least 30-days to see if your sleep improves.
1. Get a pre-bedtime routine. This is one of the best ways to get your body into rest and relaxation mode. The key to a successful pre-bed routine is making sure that your regimen is not too long and not too short. A great time frame is around 30 minutes. Set this time aside for yourself every evening.
2. Stick to a sleep schedule every day. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. When sleep has a regular rhythm, your biological clock will be in sync and all of your other bodily functions will go smoother, including your sleep.
3. Eat the right diet. Certain foods and beverages can significantly interfere with your sleep, like spicy foods, caffeine products (coffee, soda, some tea), alcohol, high fat and fried foods, and even dark chocolate.
Try to eat your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime. This will balance blood sugar, insulin, and hormone levels, and contribute to overall good health and restful sleep.
Reduce and even eliminate all stimulants by mid-afternoon. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it may prevent you from either falling asleep or having good quality sleep. It has what’s called a “half-life” of about 8 hours, which means that its level is reduced, but it’s still somewhat effective in your system long after this time.
It’s a good idea also to refrain from alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.
4. Take a Tech-Time-Out! Unplug from all your techie electronic devices at least 1 hour before bedtime. That’s right all of them. That means signing off of email, closing-out Facebook, turning off the TV, putting your phone on airplane mode (if you can), and just turning off all the devices for the night.
If you usually use an eReader in bed, try instead to keep a spare hardcover or paperback on your night table.
5. Create a pro-sleep environment. Make your bedroom a relaxing and inviting place that you feel good about sleeping in. Remove all distractions like the TV, noisy fans, radios, alarm clocks (unless they are the chime kind), and techie devices (so you won’t get tempted). Try a diffuser and use calming essential oils like lavender, rose or ylang ylang to add a calming mood, or you can also play relaxing music.
Get the room as dark as possible. Light of all kinds (including on smartphones, computers and eReaders) can reduce the production of melatonin, a hormone that induces deep sleep. If distracting light comes in your window, buy some blackout shad
Just to Recap about Why Sleep is Important
- Not getting enough sleep can have an effect on your mood, metabolism, digestion, family relations, and even your job performance
- Millions of people are getting sub-par sleep for days at a time
- Nearly Â¾ of high school students get less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights (they need more like 8-10)
- Stress is the #1 cause of insomnia in the U.S.
1 PJ Mills, et al. (2007). Inflammation and Sleep in Healthy Individuals. Sleep. Vol. 30, No. 6; 729:735.
2 Williamson, A.M., Feyer, A. (2000). Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occup Environ Med. 57:649â€“655
3 PJ Mills, et al. (2010). Inflammation and Sleep in Healthy Individuals. Sleep. May 1;33(5): 611â€“618.
Disclaimer: the views and nutritional advice expressed in this publication are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical advice. No information provided should be interpreted as a diagnosis of any disease, nor an attempt to treat or prevent or cure any disease or condition. All information in this publication is for educational purposes only and Aine-Marie and Advesta Health encourages its clients and members to continue to work in a partnership with qualified medical professional. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider or seek medical assistance. Reading, sharing, or downloading this publication does not establish a doctor patient relationship with Aine-Marie or any Advesta Health employee or consultant including any of our licensed health practitioners, coaches, dieticians or nutritionists.