Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Getting your Zzzs.

  • Sleep is good for the heart – lack of sleep is associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart attacks
  • Sleep may prevent cancer – light exposure at night reduces the level of melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy and protects against cancer
  • Sleep reduces stress – sleep deprivation is seen by the body as a stressful situation, triggering a stress response that in turn causes weight gain and type 2 diabetes
  • Sleep reduces inflammation – the stress response increases inflammation in the body, increasing the risk for heart disease, cancer, arthritis and other chronic diseases
  • Sleep makes you more alert – a good night of sleep increases your cognitive ability
  • Sleep bolsters your memory – our brains work while we are asleep, processing the day's events and storing new information
  • Sleep may help you lose weight – sleep deprivation increases your odds of gaining weight, and sleeping enough makes it easier to lose weight.  Dieters who slept 8.5 hours lost 55% more body fat than dieters who slept 5.5 hours.
  • Naps make you smarter – napping during the day is an effective alternative to caffeine, improving memory, cognitive function including problem solving, and mood.
  • Sleep may reduce your risk of depression – lack of sleep affects the balance of chemicals in your brain. People with lower serotonin levels increase their risk of depression by not getting enough sleep.
  • Sleep helps the body make repairs – Growth Hormone is released while we are sleeping, so that the body can the house keeping activities of detox, repair and reorganization.  Wounds heal faster and our immune systems are stronger with proper sleep.

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.  Humans are diurnal, so if you sleep at night your natural circadian rhythm will stimulate appropriate hormones for tissue repair at night, and wakefulness in the morning. 
  • When the days are short, allow yourself to sleep more.
  • Keep your sleep area dark.  Relocate bright clocks or LED lights, and block traffic or street lights with thick blackout curtains. 
  • Avoid television, computer screens, and unnecessary electric lights for an hour before bedtime.  Darkness lets your body manufacture melatonin so you fall deeply asleep quicker.
  • Make your bed a place of sweet respite.  Avoid stressful activities (like work) in the sleeping area. 
  • Keep the bedroom cool, 70F or lower.  Wear socks to bed or use a hot water bottle to keep your feet toasty.
  • Avoid overuse of stimulants.  Too much coffee will keep you up at night, even if you only drink it in the morning. 
  • Avoid bedtime snacks.  Eating at night confuses our internal clock. 
  • Eat a small serving of protein that contains the amino acid tryptophan at your last meal of the day.  Some good dietary sources of tryptophan include oats, bananas, dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, grass fed meat, poultry, fish, eggs, sesame and spirulina.
  • Limit beverages for 2 hours before bedtime, to minimize getting up.
  • Go to bed early enough that you can get plenty of sleep before the alarm goes off.   The ideal is to be deeply asleep before 11pm so that your adrenal glands can recharge properly.
  • Avoid stimulating supplements (such as B vitamins, tyrosine and ginseng) in the evening.
  • If you do everything in our list of how to get great sleep, and still have trouble sleeping, consult your physician who may be able to assist with further advice or supplements.  Beware of OTC sleep preparations as they may be addictive, or have unwanted effects.

  • Adults need 6-8 hours/night, depending on our base need (7-8 hours) and our sleep debt or surplus.  In other words, if you’ve slept 5 hours per night for a whole week, you might be due for a 12 hour slumber, but if you’ve been getting your 8, you might get away with a 5 hour night without major repercussions.  Most adults routinely sleep less than they need, then go with even less sleep during stressful periods.  Teens rarely get the 9 to 10 hours per night that they need.  The only group who seems to get enough sleep is infants, who need to sleep 18 hours a day.
  • People who live by the saying “I can sleep when I'm dead” will be dead sooner than the people who sleep while they are alive.  A long-term sleep deficit contributes to cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, memory loss, weak immunity, aging and death from all causes.  
  • There are more heart attacks on Mondays.  On the week in the spring when daylight savings time cuts into our sleep by an hour there are more heart attacks on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • 63% of U.S. married women say they would rather watch a movie, read a book, or sleep one more hour, than to have sex with their husbands.
  • People often don't have a very good idea how much they have slept, and people can be unconscious for a long time and still not be well rested.  Quality of sleep matters.

Thank you to Jamey Kirkpatrick, Alfredo Macedo and Teresa Gryder for conceiving and constructing this information. Nature Cure Elective Fall 2010.

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