5 Reasons to Sleep Your Way
to Better Health By Suzy Buglewicz
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When your mother told you to get your beauty
sleep, she may have been on to something. From babies to adults, studies show
that the amount of sleep a person gets can directly affect his or her diet and
overall health. While individual sleep needs vary, most adults need about 7 to
9 hours of sleep a night consistently, while school-aged children need 9 to 12
hours. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about one third of adults
regularly get 6 hours or less of sleep a night. How do you know if
you're getting enough sleep? A good way to tell is if you feel alert
during the day and feel satisfied with the amount of sleep you are getting. And
there are myriad reasons to make sure that happens. Here are five reasons to
get enough sleep.
- Reduces the risk of depression.
Getting enough sleep is essential for functioning both mentally and physically
during the day. Not getting enough can lead to dramatic mood swings, which can
increase the risk of depression. Do you have a moody teenager in the house?
Pediatricians recommend that teenagers get from 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.
While pulling an occasional all-nighter is not likely to make much of a
long-term difference in our health, research shows that consistent sleep
deprivationgetting less than 6 hours of sleep on a regular basiscan
have lasting effects that can't be reversed. These effects can include high
blood pressure, negative moods, and a decrease in productivity. Good sleep
habits lead to better moods at work as well as better moods in our social
interactions and personal relationships.
- Helps maintain an optimal weight. In a culture that encourages us to work and play 24/7 and fuel
fatigue with caffeine to keep going, it's easy to see why so many of us are
frequently tired. But did you know that getting too little sleep can cause
weight gain? Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lower proteins in
the body that suppress our appetites, causing people to want to eat more than
they would if they had gotten enough sleep. And when we're tired from lack of
sleep, we tend to overeat to refuel our bodiesto replace the energy we've
lost. Unfortunately, we're more likely to reach for our favorite comfort foods
or foods that give us a quick burst of energy, and those foods tend to be high
in calories and carbohydrates. People who don't get enough sleep might also
feel too tired to keep up a regular exercise routine, making it harder for them
to maintain a healthy weight.
- Increases the ability to think clearly. A lack of sleep not only makes us drowsy and unable to
concentrate, it can also lead to impaired memory function and job performance.
When we're well rested, we're likely to be more alert, physically stronger, and
better able to perform well at our jobs and at creative problem solving. A lack
of sleep in schoolkids can lead to poor concentration and behavior problems in
school. Sleep deprivation has also been shown to decrease hand-eye coordination
and reaction times, especially when driving. When we do get enough sleep, we're
able to think clearly and react to situations quickly.
- Reduces stress. It's no coincidence
that as a society we've cut back on sleep over the past few decades by 1 to 2
hours a night, while studies show that more of us are reporting higher levels
of stress than in past years. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 35
percent of adults report that they don't get enough sleep, with women feeling
the effects of sleep deprivation more than men. Unfortunately, many adults
accept their lack of sleep as a way of life and turn to caffeine to combat the
fatigue they feel during the day. Aiming for at least 7 hours of sleep a
nightalong with exercise and a balanced dietwill minimize stress.
good for the heart. When it comes to getting a good
night's sleep, there are significant health benefits for people of all ages.
Research has shown that consistently skimping on sleep can weaken our immune
systems, making us more vulnerable to sickness and disease. Several studies
have shown that a lack of sleep, or getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night
regularly, can lead to an irregular heart rate as well as higher blood pressure
and increased cholesterol levels, which are both risk factors for heart
disease. So the next time you try to short yourself on a good night's sleep,
think about all the health benefits you're missing by staying awake for that
extra hour or two.
Strategies for a Better Night's Sleep
- Maintain a regular bedtime and
- Establish a regular bedtime routine
that includes such things as reading or taking a bath
- Sleep on a comfortable pillow and
- Avoid activities like paying bills
or working (even exercise, for some people) right before bedtime
- Maintain a regular exercise