Did you know that you would die from sleep deprivation before you starved to death. It takes 2 weeks to die from starvation while 10 days without sleep would likely kill you. Sleep deprivation is increasingly becoming a public health epidemic as more and more people are suffering from not enough rest. Insufficient sleep contributes to depression, weight gain, cognitive impairment, cardiovascular problems, metabolic issues like diabetes, premature aging, cancers, low grade inflammation, and mood swings.
More than 1/3 of Americans have trouble sleeping every night, 51% of adults say they have problems sleeping at least a few nights each week and 43% of respondents report that daytime sleepiness interferes with their normal daytime activities. The number of adults aged 20 to 44 using sleeping pills doubled from 2000 to 2004. And seeing that 1/3 of American adults now get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, my guess is that the problem is only going to get worse. (source)
An hour before midnight is worth 2 after. —Unknown
Much research indicates that not only is it important to get enough hours of sleep but to also sleep at the right time. Sleeping from 10 pm to 6 am will leave you much more rested than sleeping from 2 am to 10 am. This is due to the fact that earlier in the evening is conducive to deep, non-REM sleep while as we approach dawn, our bodies are more prone to active REM sleep. This is definitely true for me. I feel the most vital when going to bed by 10pm and waking early. Unfortunately, I find myself staying up way too late and still getting up with my early riser EVERY morning by 630 am.
A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book. —Irish Proverb
After spending YEARS learning about and focusing on my health and diet, I have come to the conclusion that SLEEP is the most important component of a health lifestyle. You absolutely CANNOT be healthy without the proper amount of sleep. Our bodies and our emotional selves depend on this period of rest to function properly. During sleep, our bodies regenerate and repair tissues and go through many other restorative processes. Not only does sleep help you recover after a long day, but also is crucial for hormone balance, immunity, emotional processing, and detox. You can eat all the healthy food that you want and take all the expensive supplements that you can, but without proper sleep, your body will not be able to heal and maintain vitality.
This brings me to the reason for writing this post. I have decided to wholeheartedly dedicate myself to getting more rest. I have made many changes in my eating and exercise habits over the past few years and am ready to take my health and healing to the next step. We all have our “challenges” in regards to staying healthy. I have lots of will-power and discipline when it comes to what I eat. Exercise comes easily for me. SLEEP is my issue. I do not make it a priority. I have developed some unhealthy habits around sleep. And I have a very active toddler who wakes up at the crack of dawn EVERY day no matter what time mama goes to bed. So, for the month of April, I am going to commit to going to bed early every day. I am going to make sleep a priority in my life, and I am NOT going to stay up late writing, researching, and cracking out on food blogs (seriously!!!).
In honesty, this sounds easier said than done. Like I said before, sleep is my challenge in my journey to health. I would love to hear from others how much you sleep, when you sleep, and how well you sleep. Supporting and encouraging each other can help us as we learn and grow. I am trying to create the life that I want. A life with more balance, less stress, more joy, more vitality, and more sleep.
Simple tips for getting better quality sleep
Go to sleep at the same time every day. A routine cues the body to settle down for the night.
Avoid stimulants. Coffee, sugar, and chocolate are all so tasty but are not conducive to good rest. If you must indulge, keep to the earlier part of the day.
Reduce the amount of stress in your life. This is a tricky one. I encourage you to make good choices for yourself regarding the things that create stress for you. We have choices in who we spend time with, what we allow into our lives, and how we let all of that affect us. And for stressful things that are out of our control, finding effective coping techniques is essential for good health. Deep breathing and yoga are my go-to allies here.
Exercise. Regular, moderate exercise is a great way to relieve muscle and mental tension. Try to avoid strenuous exercise in the evening as it can be over-stimulating. Gentle yoga is more appropriate for night time.
Make your bed a place for SLEEP. Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep. Keep the TV, computer, and work out of the bed. Let your bedroom be a haven from the busy-ness of life..
Reduce exposure to artificial light. Artificial light throws off our circadian rhythm and impaires our body’s ability to produce proper sleep hormones. Chris Kresser gives some practical tips to reduce light exposure:
- Don’t use a computer for 2 hours before going to bed. No staying up late on Facebook and Twitter!
- Use blackout shades to make your bedroom pitch black.
- Cover your digital alarm clock or get an analog clock.
- Turn off all digital devices that glow or give off any type of light.
- If you can’t do these things for some reason, use a sleep mask.