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HEALTH CHALLENGE - DECEMBER 2013


SLEEP SMARTER: CATCH ZZZ’S TO AVOID BRAIN FREEZE


Sleep is essential for every human being. We’re not alone either, as every mammal, bird and most reptiles, amphibians and fish also require sleep to function! Sleep refreshes us, is almost always comforting and is essential to our survival (did you know that 10 days without sleep can kill you?!) and is an activity that we spend about 33% of our lives doing!1


The Better Sleep Council explains four stages of sleep and suggests that to feel most rested, it’s best for you to wake up at the end of this 4 step cycle.

  • Stage 1: Though the eyes are closed, you can be awakened without difficulty. If you are awakened from this stage of sleep, you may even feel as though you never slept. This stage can last from 5-10 minutes and you may feel like you’re falling during this stage, which can cause you to jump suddenly (called hypnic myoclonia).


  • Stage 2: During this light period of sleep, the heart rate slows and the body temperature decreases. At this point in the sleep cycle, the body is preparing to enter a deep sleep.


  • Stages 3 & 4: These are the deep sleep stages, when REM sleep occurs. These stages are known as slow-wave, or delta, sleep. If stirred from this sleep during these stages, a person may feel disoriented for a few minutes.


The US Department of Health & Human Service published Your Guide to Healthy Sleep, which explains how sleep can influence our daily Performance, Mood and Health.


Performance: We need sleep to think clearly, react quickly, and create memories. In fact, the pathways in the brain that help us learn and remember are very active when we sleep. Studies show that people who are taught mentally challenging tasks do better after a good night’s sleep. Other research suggests that sleep is needed for creative problem solving. Skimping on sleep has a price. Cutting back by even 1 hour can make it tough to focus the next day and can slow your response time. Studies also find that when you lack sleep, you are more likely to make bad decisions and take more risks. This can result in lower performance on the job or in school and a greater risk for a car crash.


Mood: Sleep affects mood. Insufficient sleep can make you irritable and is linked to poor behavior and trouble with relationships, especially among children and teens. People who chronically lack sleep are also more likely to become depressed.


Health: Sleep is also important for good health. Studies show that not getting enough sleep or getting poor quality sleep on a regular basis increases the risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions. In addition, during sleep, your body produces valuable hormones. Deep sleep triggers more release of growth hormone, which fuels growth in children and boosts muscle mass and the repair of cells and tissues in children and adults. Another type of hormone that increases during sleep helps the immune system fight various infections. This might explain why a good night’s sleep helps keep you from getting sick-and helps you recover when you do get sick. Hormones released during sleep also control the body’s use of energy. Studies find that the less people sleep, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese, to develop diabetes, and to prefer eating foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates.


Sleep is certainly vital for success in both our interactions with others, our professional lives, and our health! Here are ten tips to sleep better, from the Better Sleep Council, for maintaining a healthy sleep cycle and ensuring the best nights’ rest:

  1. Make sleep a priority by keeping a consistent sleep (bedtime) and wake schedule, including weekends.


  2. Create a bedtime routine that is relaxing. Experts recommend reading a book, listening to soothing music or soaking in a hot bath.


  3. Transform your bedroom into a haven of comfort. Create a room that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool for the best possible sleep.


  4. Evaluate your mattress and pillow to ensure proper comfort and support. If your mattress is seven years old or older, it may be time for a new one. In general, pillows should be replaced every year.


  5. Keep work materials, computers and televisions out of the bedroom; it should be used for sleep and sex only.


  6. Exercise regularly, but complete workouts at least two hours before bedtime.


  7. If you sleep with a partner, your mattress should allow each of you enough space to move easily.


  8. Avoid nicotine (e.g. cigarettes, tobacco products). Used close to bedtime, it can lead to poor sleep.


  9. Avoid caffeine and alcohol (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime. It can keep you awake.


  10. Finish eating at least two to three hours before bedtime.


Now that you know why and how to sleep, see how your personal habits stack up by taking our sleep habits questionnaire here!

For additional sleep assistance, try a Sleep App!


References:

  1. www.bettersleep.org


  2. US Department of Health & Human Services