We will not weather the pandemic, or this period of social unrest, unless we sleep. Without sleep, we will eat more unhealthy foods, drink too much alcohol, and will be persistently irritable and angry.
1 of 3 Americans do not get enough sleep.
The average person needs 7 hours of sleep. There are many ill effects of not getting enough rest. Without enough rest, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke will lurk in your future. Also, depression and psychosis are two other illnesses that are caused by sleep debt. And if you’re not worried about going crazy, you should worry about gaining weight. We eat more when we are tired. The hunger hormone, ghrelin, is released when we don’t sleep, leading to overeating. That craving for ice-cream may just be a call to get some rest! And, let’s not forget that tired people do not have good sex.
Take action. Take sleep seriously.
“Sleep is about the preservation of life itself.”
Start with these tips:
Avoid alcohol. Besides the dehydration that is shaken into any good cocktail, alcohol interferes with the ability to sleep deeply.
Turn off the lights. Our culture of always being “on” is a major disruptor of our circadian rhythm, our natural sleep cycle. Our bodies should ideally rest and wake in tandem with sunrise and sunset. When its dark, Melatonin, the “hormone of darkness,” is released. This biochemical signals the body to relax. The bright lights, the television, the computer, and the phones, all interfere with how the body naturally prepares for sleep.
Exercise. Exercise is one of the best ways to release stress from the body, and movement also releases endorphins, “feel good” hormones that will help you to relax.
Practice good sleep hygiene. Go to bed! You’re are better able to problem-solve and concentrate if you have had a good nights’ sleep. If you are totally exhausted, it’s better to get up early to finish that project, than to stay up late in an attempt to force your brain to work.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine sponsors a great website: Sleep Education. This is a great resource to learn about specific sleep issues like shift work, sleep apnea, snoring, jet lag, etc.
We are living in what is, for many of us, the most tumultuous period of our lives. Sleep right, eat right, and exercise. We will get through this, in one piece, if you take care of yourself.
There you have it. Now spread the word.
1.“The Science of Sleep”, National Geographic, August 2018