About 40% of Americans are 70% sleep deprived.
Approximately 35% of US adults report less than 7 hours of sleep per night, while 20% suffer from sleep/wakefulness disorders.
Tell me: Are you one of the 65% of Americans who sleep with their cell phones next to their bed?
Last year, I was going on about 5 hours of sleep per night. This lasted about eight months. I didn't realize the damage I was doing to my body until I noticed that I was yawning constantly (like every 5-10 minutes), I couldn't focus on anything, and I started becoming very forgetful. Of course, I got injured and my training and running suffered.
Sleep is important - and very underrated.
Sleep plays a big part in your daily rhythm, it's necessary for the biological function of every organ, helps regulate energy in most every cell, helps to filter memories in the brain, plays an important role in learning, and is needed to clear waste products, like amyloid, from the brain (an accumulation of Amyloid beta has been connected to Alzheimer's Disease). Poor sleep habits can lead to chronic disorders, including depression, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, stroke, osteoporosis, a weakened immune system, and weight gain.
Have you ever noticed that you're hungrier when you don't have enough sleep? Maybe you're like most people who will pop anything into your mouth just to stay awake at that bewitching hour, around 3PM every day? It might be helpful to know that this is not uncommon - short sleepers eat about 500 calories more per day than those who get enough sleep. That could actually put on up to one pound per week! This begs the question:
Does My Lack of Sleep Make My Butt Look Big?
When you're sleep deprived, your cravings for foods high carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cake, cookies, candy, ice cream) and fat foods increase. In addition, there's an increase in the number of hormones that stimulate hunger (grhelin). To make matters worse, when you're sleep deprived, your body's resting metabolism (# of calories burned at rest) decreases. And, if your lack of sleep is due to stress, there could be an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone. Increases in cortisol is thought to be associated with an increase in fat deposits around the abdominal area.
So, what do you think? Can lack of sleep contribute to weight gain?
Sleep is mentally, physically, and emotionally restorative - and believe it or not, adults actually need between 7-9hours of restful sleep per night.
Restful sleep means that you are not using sleeping aids or alcohol to fall asleep, and you can sleep through the night - no interruptions due to pain, discomfort, or sleep apnea. Research studies have proven that less than 7 hours per night increases risk of disease.
A good night's sleep helps protect brain health, as well as your thinking/cognitive function. It has been proven that restful sleep helps you to better deal with stressful situations, regulate emotions, and have better inter-personal relationships.
So, how can you make sure you get a good night's sleep?
First, Regulate Your Production of Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep/wake cycles. When you are exposed to light, you boost your melatonin production. When it's dark, your brain secretes more melatonin. Lifestyle habits can decrease melatonin and mess with your sleep/wake cycle.
Does this sound familiar? Long days in front of a computer screen, or bright lights at night (TV or computer)? You must take back control by increasing your exposure to light during the day:
· Take a break during the day and head outside for some sunshine
· Exercise outside - my fave is running!
· Open your curtains or blinds
· TIVO your favorite shows and watch them at an earlier time,
· Keep your television or computer off at night before bed,
· Face the light from your clock or phone away from your bed.
Second, Synchronize Your Circadian Rythm
Now that you know how to raise your production of melatonin, synchronize your body's sleep/wake cycle, also known as your body's circadian rhythm. Did you know that each organ and cell in your body has its own clock? Yes! And when their rhythm is off - so is your body's rhythm.
To develop a rhythm, you must develop a sleep/wake routine:
· Set a regular bedtime.
· Go to bed at this same time every night - Even on weekends!
· Consistency is key!
Third, Develop an Exercise Routine
The National Sleep Foundation reports that active people are more likely to report good sleep vs. inactive people on a ratio of 65% to 39%! Also, it seems that people who exercise in the morning exercise (7AM) are more likely to enjoy a restful night's sleep (fewer middle-of-the-night-wakings) than those who exercise at 7PM.
Fourth, Embrace Some Good Night Time Eating and Drinking Habits
· Besides planning to get to bed by a certain hour every night, limit non-sleeping time in bed. In other words, keep the bed for sleeping and ...
· Shut down your cell phone, computer, and TV at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and ban laptops, cell phones, and televisions from your bedroom.
· Avoid spicy foods before bedtime. This could lead to heartburn, which gets worse when you lye down.
· Cut off fluids by 8PM. This may be especially helpful if getting up to go to the bathroom during the night is a problem.
· Keep your bedtime snack small and easy-to-digest. Milk, Decaffeinated Tea, cookies, or crackers may not be so bad. Cookies and crackers contain contain carbohydrates, which raises blood sugar, and increases insulin, which can promote sleep. And milk, like eggs, oats and wheat, contains tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep.
· Avoid overdoing it on the alcohol. Alcohol is dehydrating, can disrupt sleep, and make you feel tired the next day. It can also relax your throat muscles and contribute to sleep apnea.
· Recognize stimulants. For example, caffeine is not only found in coffee, and tea, but it can also be found in chocolate, chocolate desserts, and medicines. As a rule of thumb, it's good to plan to stop drinking caffeinated beverages by early afternoon. Lastly, nicotine is also a stimulant. Smoking can prevent you from falling asleep and worsen insomnia.
Sleep should be considered just as important as eating right, and getting enough exercise.
This post was originally posted here.
About the Author
Elizabeth Candela is a graduate of Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science. Her studies at Rutgers led Elizabeth into employee health and safety, and she worked several years as a Safety Engineer in Risk Management. In 2007, after achieving a Master of Art from Montclair State University, Elizabeth taught high school Biology, Environmental Science and Physics. Then, in 2009, Elizabeth developed a portable core fitness device, and since has secured a United States Patent. The development of this device drew her into the Exercise and Nutrition field, so she left the teaching profession to pursue postgraduate courses in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. Since then, Elizabeth has achieved her New Jersey Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Certification, as well as her American College of Sports Medicine Exercise Physiology Certification. By maximizing her training and fitness through sound nutritional principles, Elizabeth continues to challenge herself physically and nutritionally through her commitment to run a half marathon in every USA state, and six World Marathon Majors.
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