Friday, March 5, 2010

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Ahh sleep, it’s our bodies natural way of recharging. Unfortunately, you probably take better care to recharge your cell phone than you do your own body. Or at least that is what the National Sleep Foundation has found; reporting that lack of sleep is the most common complaint amongst Americans today. I’m guilty of it, and sometimes it just doesn’t seem to be helped. Despite a busy day, once I try to hit the sheets, I can’t seem to drift off easily.

We all know that the obvious drawback of not getting enough sleep is that you will be tired, which is never a good feeling. But researchers are now finding that there are some pretty serious health risks that come along with a lack of sleep. Cardiovascular disease, hypertension and high blood pressure are the major ailments you put yourself at risk for. But your immune system also takes a hit from lack of sleep, and that means more colds and infections. Beyond that, lack of sleep can actually mess up your plans to diet as well! Some experts say that sleep deprivation causes your body to boosts production of the hormone that makes you hungry. And it makes sense: your body is probably trying to shore up missing energy from another source.

Fortunately, just one extra hour of sleep per night can make a dramatic difference. Logging that extra nightly hour will not only improve how you feel during your daily routine, but you will reap the long term health benefits as well.

Start trying to develop a healthy routine that should be practiced before bed. Your kids probably have a bedtime routine to keep them alert and active during school, so why shouldn’t you take care of yourself in the same way?

This might seem hard, but for at least four hours before bed, avoid consuming any sort of stimulant. Coffee, soda, and even chocolate are major culprits to avoid. I started switching out my late night coffees with caffeine free peppermint tea after dinner. Also think about stimulants for your mind, the TV, radio, computers, and your cell phone. Unplug yourself from all of these distractions and let your mind start to wind down.

Exercise three to four hours prior to sleep is also a bad idea. Exercise won’t tire you out instantly; it will actually get your energy levels up. If you are committed to your workout routine, trying hitting the gym before work, you might even find this keeps you more energized during the day!

And while it is a good idea to get on a routine with your sleep, your body also craves a certain amount of variety. So don’t feel guilty about sleeping in on a Saturday morning! You might have to answer the call of the alarm clock during the week, but if you can, find a weekend morning where you can let your body decide when you are ready to rise.

For more information on healthy sleep habits visit UnderstandingSleep.org

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