Hitting the Hay

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Open up your eyes to the value of closing them!

By Siobhán Floyd


Our parents have been telling us for years to get 8 hours sleep, but with busy lifestyles, work demands and social lives brimming with invitations, how many of us actually get enough shut eye?

Now we’ve all heard of the saying “You can sleep when you’re dead”, but studies are indicating that this off the cuff comment may be more accurate than first thought.

Epidemiology studies have found the following increased risks in people who consistently achieve less than 6 hours of sleep per night:

• Stroke: increased risk by a factor of 4x
• Obesity: increased due to the increase in ghrelin (a hunger hormone)
• Diabetes: insulin resistance is increased due to sleep deprivation
• Accelerated memory loss: Not only permanent cognitive loss, but evidence in early brain deterioration
• Osteoporosis: changes in bone mineral density and bone marrow changes
• Cardiac disease: 48% increase in early cardiac death and in mortality
• Overall increase in death by 4 fold.

And if that’s not reason enough to hit the hay; according to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, up to 26% of people say that their sex lives tend to suffer because they’re just too tired. There’s evidence that in men impaired sleep can be associated with lower testosterone levels.

Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (your circadian rhythm) is one of the most important strategies for achieving a good night’s sleep. If you keep a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, you will feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. This holds true even if you alter your sleep schedule by only an hour or two. Consistency is vitally important.

Other sleep tips:
Set a regular bedtime – Most people struggle with this element the most. The key is often setting a wake time first, then you’ll naturally be tired enough by the end of the day to go to sleep. Try on week days sleeping no later than 8am and going to sleep no later than 11pm.

Get the appropriate amount of hours – Research indicates that the period of deep to light sleep goes in 1.5 hour periods, therefore instead of setting your alarm for 8 hours after you jump into bed; try for 7.5 or 9 hrs.

Wake up at the same time every day – Waking up naturally without an alarm is the best measure of adequate sleep. By creating a sleep routine you are effectively resetting your body clock.

Be smart about napping – While taking a nap can be a great way to recharge, especially for older adults, it can make insomnia worse. If insomnia is a problem for you consider eliminating napping. If you must nap do it in the early afternoon and limit it to thirty minutes.

Add some exercise – Exercise, especially cardio, has been shown to improve the length and quality of sleep.

Unwind – It’s important to give yourself time to transition from the active day to bedtime drowsiness. This process generally takes about 1 hour. During this time try to limit over-stimulating activities such as video games and technology.

Record it – Most smart devices have apps available which can be useful in recording not only your sleep length but patterns of movement and depth of sleep. These can be switched on prior to unwinding

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