Making Sleep a Priority

Over the last half a century, we have shaved off an average of two (precious) hours of sleep a night. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll this year, 40 percent of adults say they get less than seven hours of sleep on a weeknight, compared with the seven to nine hours that are recommended.

Of course, most of us know this. We burn the midnight oil, we get up way before the kids just to get things done. Our days are go, go, go! And it’s often hard to stay asleep once we get there.

And while most of us know that too little sleep makes us cranky, less focused and less available to those who need us, did you know this?

• Bodies deprived of sleep produce less leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone; this increases our craving for sweets and salty carbohydrates.

• Shortened sleep produces metabolic changes. These may lead to diabetes or may alter the nervous system in a way that could contribute to high blood pressure and heart-rhythm irregularities.

• Insomnia substantially increases the risk of developing depression.

In short, not getting enough rest can affect both our mental and physical health much more than we thought. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts that will help you get healthful, renewing sleep more often.

DO structure your sleep. Try to go to bed and arise at the same times every day. Irregular hours can throw off the internal biological clock.

DO create a soothing bedtime routine. Watching the news or reading the latest page-turner are not good sleep inducers. Meditation or soothing music helps to end the day.

DON’T work, eat or watch TV in bed. Keep your bedroom for sleep. DO keep it quiet, dark and cool, and your feet warm. However, within five minutes of waking, expose yourself to bright light.

DON’T exercise or eat heavily within several hours of bedtime. Both energize the body. However, DO exercise in the late afternoon or early evening. This reduces tension and makes falling asleep easier.

DO avoid stimulants and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine, nicotine, sugary snacks and alcohol all can cause wakefulness.

DO head off potential anxieties at the bedroom door. Make lists of chores or tasks for the next day, and/or gather things you will need. (It’s like laying out your school clothes!) If worries keep you awake, write your concerns down and list possible solutions.

DON’T look at your clock if you wake up in the night. Figuring how much sleep you’re missing intensifies the wee-hours stress of insomnia. Cover your clock, if you need to.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

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