Maybe you’ve been up late, burning the midnight oil, trying to finish that last proposal… or client project… or email…
Maybe the next day you found yourself nodding off while at your kid’s soccer game… or in a meeting… while watching a movie… or most dangerously, while driving your car…
Now this isn’t an occasional occurrence, but it goes on night after night, day after day…
You’re in the endless cycle of staying up late (by choice or not) and waking up early. And it’s taking a toll on you, both mentally and physically.
When you lack the proper amount of sleep, not only do you lose out on the benefits of sleeping well, but you also lose out on the opportunity to live each day fully aware and awake. And heaven forbid, you may even put yourself or your loved ones in danger if you drive while drowsy.
Where’s Mr. Sandman?
Let’s first talk about what happens when you don’t get enough sleep:
- Your memory takes a hit. It’s harder both to learn and remember things; words always feel like they’re just on the tip of your tongue. Sleep helps your brain process new information from the day and consolidate it for easy retrieval.
- You can become moody, or even depressed, which also impacts your relationships.
- You’re not as alert, which can lead to missing important cues in your environment. You don’t think straight and have trouble making decisions, solving problems, and reasoning. This means – believe it or not – you’re more accident prone! Slipping, falling off a ladder, cutting yourself while slicing vegetables…
- Your immune system takes a hit and you’re more likely to pick up germs and illnesses, which can lead to more sick days and missing workouts.
- A consistent lack of sleep can actually make you more prone to heart disease and cancer.
- Your libido suffers. ‘Nuff said.
- You’re more likely to gain weight and then struggle to lose it.
- Your good looks disappear! In a study, people who didn’t get enough sleep discovered more fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin color, and “looser” skin in their faces.
The most frightening reason to make sure you get enough sleep is “drowsy driving”, which can actually be compared to driving while drunk. If you’ve been awake for 18 hours straight, you could be driving as if you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (for reference, .08 is considered drunk). If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours – for instance, after a night where you had trouble falling asleep – it’s like a blood alcohol level of .10. The CDC estimates that 1 in 25 adult drivers have fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. And in 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes.
These are truly scary statistics, and reason enough to make sure you sleep well.
Getting Enough Sleep is Magical
But let’s also look at the BENEFITS of getting a good night’s sleep, consistently. Obviously, you can count on the opposite of the above:
- Clear thinking
- A healthy sex drive
- Better health, both short-term and long-term
- Less chronic pain, if that’s something from which you suffer
- Lower risk of injuries and accidents
- Better mood… leading both to feeling positive, and to better relationships
- Better weight control
- Better memory
Recommended Sleep Needs
Now the proper sleep needs are different for everyone. It depends on age, activity level, the quality of sleep you’re getting, if you were already sleep deprived. There is just a lot that goes into what you may need. For example, pregnant women typically need more sleep early on in pregnancy due to the needs of the growing baby. However, just like daily physical activity and nutrition intake, there are general recommendations for sleep. The table below is taken from Mayo Clinic.
|Age group||Recommended amount of sleep|
|Newborns||14 to 17 hours a day|
|12 months||About 10 hours at night, plus 4 hours of naps|
|2 years||About 11 to 12 hours at night, plus a 1- to 2-hour afternoon nap|
|3 to 5 years||10 to 13 hours|
|6 to 13 years||9 to 11 hours|
|14 to 17 years||8 to 10 hours|
|Adults||7 to 9 hours|
But I Just Can’t Sleep…
OK, but you may ask, “How do I actually get more sleep when I have trouble sleeping?”
I’m glad you asked! According to Dr. Richard Shane here are some tips that often help. As you lie in bed:
- Soften your tongue
- Loosen your jaw
- Calm your throat
- Listen to your sleep breath
- Calm your heart
This is a simple method that helps you relax your body and your mind, so you can fall asleep naturally.
In addition, the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following tips when counting sheep just isn’t enough.
- Carve out at least 30 minutes of wind-down time before bed in which you do something relaxing, such as read a book. Dim the lights in the house slightly for an hour or so before bed.
- Disconnect from close-range electronic devices such as laptops, phones, and tablets, as the light from their screens can alert the brain and make it harder to fall asleep. The light affects our natural sleep cycle causing our bodies to fight bedtime.
- In order to calm your mind, do a breathing or relaxation exercise. Stretching is also a great idea as a pre-bedtime ritual.
- If you get into bed and cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and return to another space in the house to do a relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music. Lying in bed awake can create an unhealthy link between your sleeping environment and wakefulness. Instead, you want your bed to conjure sleepy thoughts and feelings only.
- Wake up at the same time every day. Even if you have a hard time falling asleep and feel tired in the morning, try to get up at the same time (weekends included). This can help adjust your body’s clock and aid in falling asleep at night.
I’m often surprised at how little we talk about sleep patterns in the health and fitness world since it can have such a dramatic impact on our weight and health. For instance, according to Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that weight gain is associated in people consistently getting less than 5 hours or more than 9 hours of sleep each night. The cause lies in the relationship between sleep and hormones that deal with hunger. In addition, those with too little sleep feel fatigued and therefore perform less physical activity.
If you’d like to speak with me about the health benefits of getting better sleep, and how your daily routine can help you doze off more easily, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help you turn from drowsy to energetic!
About the Author:
Hi, I’m Josh Davidson, owner of Personal Training Institute of Fort Wayne. I have been involved in health and fitness for over 7 years. I would love to help you start living a healthy lifestyle. You can learn more about my staff and I as well as what we do by calling 260-338-2022 or visiting our website here. If you’re looking to start on your fitness journey, sign up for a free consultation and workout today!