Sleep is Not a Luxury – Good Sleep Equals Quality Health
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a light sleeper. I wake up at least three or four times a night, and not because I have to use the bathroom. Sometimes I wake up because my legs have fallen asleep. I actually move my pillow, and fold myself in half, practically sleeping on my own lap. Weird, I know. I have no idea why I woke up when I was a teenager with no husband or dogs sleeping in the bed, or room, with me. Nowadays, I blame them, but it’s really not the truth.
According to the American Sleep Association over 35% of adults 20 and older sleep less than 7 hours a night. Ideally, adults need 7-9 hours each night. Furthermore, 50-70 million people have some sort of sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. Snoring is also a big issue, which can disrupt your sleep and that of your partner. When I hit the point of exhaustion, I drop and will sleep for hours without moving…and the snoring could wake the neighbors. On those occasions, I’ve woken to find my husband sleeping in another room. My bad.
Most of us think of sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity. False!!! Sleep is as essential to health as good nutrition. In fact, some of your health issues can be attributed to lack of sleep. Most of us know that lack of sleep can affect our mood, causing irritability, but did you know it can also lead to anxiety and depression?? MedlinePlus also states that it can lead to problems with relationships for teenagers.
Now here’s where it gets even more serious. Lack of sleep can contribute to obesity, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, and over half of the adult population is overweight or obese. I’m not saying that lack of sleep is the only factor in these health concerns. Obviously, history and lifestyle are also important factors. But let’s just focus on the shut eye.
So, what can we do to get some better sleep? MedlinePlus and the National Sleep Foundation have some guidelines for you.
Set a schedule. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day, even the weekends.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol later in the day.
Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. Reading, a bath, and even herbal tea to begin winding down and getting you ready to fall asleep.
Regular exercise. Not necessarily right before bed, but get moving!
Avoid large meals and beverages too close to bedtime.
Don’t take a nap after 3 p.m.
Keep your bedroom cool.
Try to get rid of distractions in your bedroom. TV, electronic devices, etc.
If it takes you longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep, get up and do something relaxing.
Let me know if you try one or more of these the suggestions and the extent to which they are helpful.
If you try these things and your sleep still doesn’t improve, it may be time to see a specialist. A sleep doctor will review your history extensively and help you develop a plan of action. You may need to do a sleep study, but often these can be done in your own home, which is how I did mine. Maybe you’ll need medication, maybe you won’t. But when sleep is this important to your health and well-being, it’s better to know all of your options.
My own sleep study showed that I had very mild, positional sleep apnea. So, when I fall asleep on my side, I’m fine. But if I roll to my back, it kicks in and I start snoring. I’ve definitely implemented some of these suggestions but setting a regular sleep schedule is difficult. My husband has a crazy schedule, so if I want to spend time with him, I have to be flexible. I’m also really bad about drinking caffeine later in the day. But, that’s when I want it. Sometimes the consequences are not fun!
Unfortunately, my lack of quality sleep truly affects my productivity. For example, this weekend I had basically two long naps Friday night. I slept three hours, was up for 2 hours, then back to sleep for 2 hours or so. I woke up like a zombie! Couldn’t sleep anymore, but all I wanted to do was zone out on the couch. However, I had a long list of things to accomplish. I had errands to run, needed to take the dogs to the park to run off some energy, then wanted to spend a couple hours on some continuing education for my certifications. Know what got done?? The dog park.
And that’s only because my girls would not leave me alone. You try ignoring 2 dogs with a combined weight of 130 pounds.
Sleep is important, and I suspect many of us are one of the millions of sleep-deprived women. I’d really like to hear from you and share your stories and successes.
You are in good company.