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May is Better Sleep Month, Here's How to Get it

By Guest Columnist Stephanie Duguid

May is Better Sleep Month, Here's How to Get it

The month of May celebrates Better Sleep Month. In most instances, individuals believe that nutrition and exercise are the main components to a healthy lifestyle. A good night’s sleep, just like a healthy diet and exercise, is also essential to your mental, emotional and physical well-being.

According to the Better Sleep Council, many people do not get the 7 to 8 hours of nightly sleep recommended by sleep experts. You need different amount of sleep depending on your age; babies (14-17 hours), children ages 3-18 (10-13 hours), 18-60 (7 hours or more), and over 65 (7-9 hours). Let’s discuss a few more sleep facts. It may be surprising to hear that an individual spends 600 hours a year dreaming. In fact individuals who are blind also see images in their dreams. On the other hand 90 million Americans have sleep disrupted by snoring. Additionally, parents lose about 1000 hours of sleep in the first year of a baby’s life.

Sleep is essential to proper health mentally, physically, and emotionally. When you sleep, your brain recharges, your cells repair themselves, and your body releases important hormones. So, how do you sleep?

Are you groggy and foggy in the mornings? Like most Americans you’re probably not getting enough sleep. The good news is there are solutions to helping you sneak in more sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Americans are in the middle of a sleep loss epidemic. Nearly eight in 10 Americans say they would feel better and more prepared for the day if they had just one more hour of sleep. Getting that bit of extra sleep may seem impossible to you as you stumble out of bed every morning, but in fact there are secrets to getting more sleep that can add time to your current habits.

Here are several suggestions to assist with getting a good night’ sleep according to the Better Sleep Council:

  • You can make 8 hours of quality sleep a regular part of your life by scheduling it. Make sleep part of your to-do list and plan your bedtime like you would any other appointment. Doing the same things every single night signals to your body that sleep is coming and helps your body and mind relax so sleep comes easily.

  • It’s tempting to hit the snooze button over and over to squeak out just a little more sleep, but this hurts you more than it helps you. Break this bad habit and set your alarm for the time you actually need to get up.

  • What you’re eating and drinking and when you’re enjoying it affects your sleep. Try to finish eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime so your whole system is ready to relax.

  • Exercise is important to help your body feel ready for sleep, and even just taking a walk can get your blood moving and improve your sleep. It’s best to complete your workouts at least 2 hours before you go to bed so your body is ready to rest.

  • Taking a nap might seem counter-intuitive to good nighttime sleep, but short naps of 10 to 30 minutes actually help you gain extra energy during the day and don’t disrupt your sleep. Even a 10-minute nap can improve your alertness for 2-and-a-half hours if you’re sleep-deprived, and you can feel the benefit for up to 4 hours if you are well-rested.

Your environment matters too! If you have ever tried to fall asleep in a hospital or airport, you know that the environment has a tremendous impact. Here are some other helpful hints to a good night’s sleep.

  • If your bedroom is not a comforting and relaxing place, you’re not going to want to spend a lot of time there. Make adjustments to your bedroom so that it is dark, quiet, cool and cozy. A bedroom should have a temperature between 65 and 67 degrees for comfortable sleeping. Turn down the thermostat, plug in an air conditioner or open the window to get your room to the right temperature.

  • Your bed plays one of the biggest roles in determining how long and how well you sleep. Your bed and your body naturally change over time (they’re both aging!), so if your mattress is seven years or older, it’s probably time to replace it.

  • If you’re bringing the stress of your job and daily life to bed with you, you’re not going to sleep well. Most people say that family issues (23%), personal finances (16%) and current events (2%) are reasons why they don’t sleep. Resolve to keep everything that’s stressful out of your bedroom, so don’t bring in work materials, your phone or even allow yourself to think about work while in your bedroom.

  • Keeping a television, smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer in your bedroom makes it harder for you to sleep soundly. The lighting from electronics actually stimulates your brain while you’re trying to sleep and wakes you up. Keep your electronics physically separated from you and in another room. Use a simple alarm clock instead of your phone.

Sleep is a necessity and it affects every aspect of your life; from your productivity, to your health, and to your mood. While most of us assume that sleep hours cut into our productive hours, we’re actually more productive when we get sufficient sleep!

Most people can feel the consequences of insufficient sleep by being irritable, exhausted, easily distracted or making unsound decisions. However, there are other consequences of poor sleep that aren’t always as obvious. For example, sleep deprivation can negatively affect your immune system which can be evident through weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, bone loss, and depression. Sleep deprivation also can impair learning, memory, alertness, concentration, judgement, problem solving, and reasoning.

But these are only a few of the health issues sleep deprivation creates. According to Eve Van Cauter of the University of Chicago, a “lack of sleep disrupts every physiologic function in the body.” To make matters worse, lack of sleep hinders your ability to realize your own performance is impaired, making you think you’re functioning well when you probably aren’t.

Make a commitment now to review your sleep habits. Better sleep can make for a happier, healthier life! Here is to your health!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stephanie Duguid is Dean of Academic Instruction at Co-Lin. She is also an athletic trainer and nutrition specialist and has been teaching courses related to those two areas as well as practicing what she preaches for more than twenty years..


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