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A good night’s sleep is restorative and refreshing. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Did you know that inadequate sleep is linked to health issues, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer? Research suggests adequate sleep, like regular physical activity and good eating habits, is essential for good health.

The five stages of sleep, known in sleep research as “sleep architecture” are as follows:

Phase 1: Transition State
Phase 2: Theta Waves and Spindles
Phase 3: Delta and Theta Waves
Phase 4: Delta/ Deep Sleep
Phase 5: Rapid Eye Movement or REM

A complete cycle of sleep lasts 90 to 110 minutes. Most adults have three to five REM cycles per night, spending about 20% of the time in REM. A recent study by the National Sleep Foundation found that over 60% of Americans suffer from poor quality sleep, which impacts presenteeism, absenteeism and workers’ compensation claims on the job.

The latest medical studies related to sleep are focused on two hormones, leptin and ghrelin. These hormones help our bodies control feelings of hunger and fullness. When we don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels decrease and ghrelin levels increase. What does this mean to your waistline? Essentially, it means your system of checks and balances related to your appetite and fullness are impaired. A study at Columbia University confirmed the mechanism of fluctuating hormone levels leading sleep deprived participants to overeat, on average, 300 additional calories a day of mostly high fat foods, such as ice cream and fast food. Gina Lundberg a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, comments on the research stating sleep deprivation provides a “double whammy” for weight gain. She remarks that not only are people eating more when they are tired, they are less motivated to exercise.

So what can you do to get a few more winks and help beat the bulge as well? Below are several ideas that may help.

8 tips to a good night’s sleep:

  • Get in a routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
  • Complete your physical activity for the day at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Avoid eating before bed. Food can aggravate acid reflux and throw off your body’s internal clock.
  • Avoiding watching television, working on the computer, or reading in bed.
  • Avoid naps during the day.
  • Do not allow pets on the bed.

Challenge yourself to implement one or two of these tips to help you get the sleep your body needs each night. While the general health benefits may be a bit difficult to quantify, the more concrete and immediate results will be that you’ll feel better, be more alert and may even shed those last few pounds you’ve been trying to lose.

As a final step take the sleep self-assessment to help you identify your sleep habits. You may want to use it to discuss your sleep habits with your health care provider.


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