We live in a culture that strongly values productivity and activity above all else. We have lost the value for rest and relaxation and we have forgotten how to do it! Everyone needs a good 7-8 hours sleep each night.
Watching TV, browsing the Internet or playing with some type of electronic device, is not really very restful and yet this is how many people think they are “unwinding”.
Insomnia has reached epidemic proportions. It is estimated to be the #1 health-related problem in America. 43% of adults report that daytime sleepiness interferes with their normal daytime activities. Hence, the success of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.
A full nights sleep:
- Enhances memory and mental clarity
- Improves athletic performance
- Boosts mood and overall energy
- Improves immune function
- Increases stress tolerance
Fewer than 6 hours sleep is associated with:
- Depression and anxiety
- Impaired immune system
- Overweight and obesity (you snooze, you lose …weight, of course)
- Cognitive decline
- Mood and mental health decline
- Systemic inflammation
- Increased risk of death
There is really no physical or mental condition that lack of sleep doesn’t contribute to or make worse.
The two biggest health challenges we face today are lack of sleep and stress. You could eat a perfect diet and exercise ‘til the cows come home, but if you are not sleeping well and managing your stress, all bets are off!
So how do we make it better? Think about life before electricity. People’s circadian rhythms were working well. A lot of day light exposure, darkness at night. Lack of day light and lots of artificial light have disrupted that tremendously.
This disrupts our sleep as well as our body’s repair and melatonin production.
Follow these tips to avoid artificial light exposure:
- Don’t use a computer for 2 hours before going to bed.
- Use blackout shades to make you 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.
Don’t eat too close to bedtime. However, if you are hypoglycemic you will probably do better with a snack before bed.
The very best advice I can give you is go to bed earlier! Having a lot of energy late into the night is a sign of a disrupted circadian rhythm. For millions of years human sleep patterns remained in sync with the daily variation of light exposure. We rose with the sun and went to bed soon after sundown. This is what our bodies are adapted for.
The most important factor in getting a good night’s sleep is managing stress during the day. High cortisol at night disturbs sleep. What I would highly recommend are good yoga-type breathing and movement exercises that promote daytime relaxation and a good nights sleep.