It may be a sign of my advanced age, but I really like my sleep.
I mean, seriously.
The love I have for sleep these days used to be reserved for things like parties, bars, a good filet mignon, done medium (I know, I know) and the Original Star Trek series ( the original, with Shatner, Nimoy, D. Kelley and Yeoman Rand)
I seriously like sleeping almost as much as that other bed-based activity, though my memory of that activity may have faded with time….
….but I digress…
Roy Kohler, MD, who specializes in sleep medicine at SCL Health in Montana, cities research that shows people who get less sleep tend to be heavier, eat more, have a higher BMI, and are more likely to be diabetic. Over the past few decades, both sleep quality and quantity has declined. In fact, many people these days regularly get poor sleep.
So what are some of the benefits of a good night’s sleep?
I’m glad you asked.
When your body gets the sleep it needs, your immune cells and proteins get the rest they need to fight off whatever comes their way — like colds or the flu. And according to sleep specialists over at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, proper sleep can also make vaccines more effective, which is a timely observation, neh?
If you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces ghrelin, a hormone that boosts appetite. Your body also decreases the production of leptin, a hormone that tells you you’re full. Plus, when you don’t sleep enough you get more stressed and don’t have the energy to fight off junk food cravings.
Not getting enough sleep can lead to heart health problems like high blood pressure or heart attacks. That’s because lack of sleep can cause your body to release cortisol, a stress hormone that triggers your heart to work harder. Just like your immune system, your heart needs rest in order to function powerfully and properly.
There is some truth in the old saying, “Getting up on the right side of the bed.” It has nothing to do with which side of the bed you roll out of, but if you sleep well, you wake up feeling rested. Being rested helps your energy levels soar. When your energy is up, life’s little challenges won’t annoy you as much. Like people at the theater who talk like they are in their freaking LIVING ROOMS! Or is that just me.
Sleep has been linked to improved concentration and higher cognitive function as well as improved memory, all of which can help you be successful at work, at play, doing the New York Times crossword. You know, the important things.
Sleep affects all types of exercise performance. A good night’s sleep helps with hand-eye coordination, reaction time and muscle recovery. Plus, depriving yourself of sleep can have a negative impact on strength and power.
So, what can we do to improve the quality of our sleep? Here’s some tips;
Increase bright light exposure during the day.
Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm
It affects your brain, body, and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it’s time to sleep. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration.
Reduce blue light exposure in the evening
Exposure to light during the day is beneficial, but nighttime light exposure has the opposite effect. Again, this is due to its effect on your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Blue light — which electronic devices like TVs, smartphones and computers emit in large amounts — is the worst in this regard.
Don’t consume caffeine late in the day
When consumed late in the day, caffeine stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from …
…Wait, do I really have to explain this one?
Don’t drink coffee late at night. Got it?
Reduce irregular or long daytime naps
While short power naps are beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep. One study noted that while napping for 30 minutes or less can enhance daytime brain function, longer naps can harm health and sleep quality.
Try to sleep and wake at consistent times
Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset.
Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can aid long-term sleep quality.
Take a melatonin supplement
Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to relax and head to bed.
In one study, taking 2 mg of melatonin before bed improved sleep quality and energy the next day and helped people fall asleep faster. In another study, half of the group fell asleep faster and had a 15% improvement in sleep quality. Valerian root is another good botanical option.
Exercise regularly — but not before bed
Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your sleep and health. One study showed that exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night wakefulness by 30%, and anxiety by 15% while increasing total sleep time by 18%.
Several more “Captain Obvious” suggestions;
-Don’t eat late in the evening
-Relax and clear your mind in the evening. Meditation, bath, massage.
-Get a comfortable bed, mattress, and pillow
-Reduce fluid intake in the late evening and try to use the bathroom right before bed.
So what do you need, a truckload of Sominex to drop on your head?
Integrate some of these habits to improve your sleep, and reap some of those fabulous benefits listed above.
But for now, I’m done.
It’s time for my nap.