It feels so good when you get it and it hurts so bad when you don’t. I recently attended a webinar on integrative nutrition where the guest speaker shared having adequate sleep may be even more important than what we eat and how much we exercise! Lack of “shut eye” has been linked to increased inflammation in the body which is a major factor in many chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer and autoimmune conditions. There is research that links obesity with lack of sleep and many of us have been guilty of nibbling to stay awake.
Our bad sleep habits may not only affect just us but may affect others also, the National Department of Transportation estimates that drowsy driving may be linked for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries a year in the U.S.
How much sleep do we need?
It depends on where you are in the life cycle. Check out this wonder chart from the Sleep Foundation .
However, the average American adult gets much less than they need at about 6.8 hours on average. It also seems that once we miss this sleep, it is very difficult to catch up on it!
Having a chance to get the entire sleep for the evening instead of broken sleep is very important because our body needs to be able to get into REM sleep in order for our body to maintain its circadian rhythm. The sleep foundation calls this the body clock or sleep drive. People who work night shift and different shifts may have a difficult time with this and need to work hard to maintain this pattern.
If sleep is so important , why don’t we seem to get enough?
There are many reasons why we don’t get enough sleep, some of these include:
1.Many of us are trying to cram too much on our already crowded schedule but we don’t make it a priority to include getting a good night’s sleep on the calendar. The American work week has gone from a 40 hour week to a 60-80 hour a week for some of us.
2. Too much on our minds. For some of us, it could be worry and stress. How many times have we had worries that have kept us up half the night or all night?
3. Sometimes we might try as hard as we can but still not falling asleep. For some of us it could be hormonal for others of us maybe it is caffeine or alcohol. There are some of us who are too uptight to even get to sleep.
4. And even some of us are choosing not to get our rest. With electronic devices, social media, the internet and program watching, many of us are distracted from giving our bodies the rest it deserves.
What do some people get enough sleep but still feel exhausted in the morning and throughout the day?
People who snore and who are often overweight may have sleep apnea . These people may actually have their heart stop during short periods of their sleep. This is a serious health condition that needs medical attention. It can be improved by several types of sleep apnea treatments including weight loss.
Here are a Few Ideas to Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep
- Quiet Your Mind, stop working, turn off television and don’t sleep with music on an hour or more before bedtime so you will wind down be able to go to sleep. Get a good book and read. Develop yourself some sleep rituals to get you ready.
- Diet. Eating too close to bedtime can affect sleep so eat several hours before going to bed if possible. High protein foods may keep you awake and complex carbohydrate foods can make you feel sleepy. Vitamin B supplements may keep some people awake so these should be taken earlier in the day.
- Limit alcohol because it affects sleep and don’t overdo it on caffeine too late in the day.
- For some people taking the hormone melatonin may benefit sleep. Since it comes in the form of a supplement, the dose and the quality may not always be standardized.
- Relax and De-Stress before bedtime. For some people herbal tea can be help. Some herbs that work well for sleep include chamomile and hops. Sleepy Time from Celestial Seasonings can be a good option but there are other brands available. You can also blend your own. A local kitchen and gardening shop Villagers in Asheville, NC has a great apothecary. Another great way to relax before bed is a warm bath.
- Limit distraction. Sometimes people can sleep better with some white noise. There are several types of noise machines that can be very soothing and also block out any unwanted noises that can disturb your rest. I also benefit from a notebook near my bed in case I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about something I need to do the next day, I can write it down, forget about it and get back to sleep.
- Exercise is important earlier in the day to help us sleep later.
- Sticking to a regular sleep schedule that our body is used to having can help.
- Make sure the room is comfortable with the temperature, mattress, pillows and bedding.
As a registered dietitian nutritionist in Asheville and fellow insomniac on occasion, my eyes have been opened up to the seriousness of getting adequate sleep and sleep disorders. I can a health care provider to help people improve their quality of sleep and refer clients to appropriate sleep professionals. I you want to know more about me, here is a little more about me.