Sleep–More Important Than You Think

We live in a culture that venerates busy-ness. The busier, the more exalted people feel. “I’m soooooo busy, I don’t have time to breathe!”
But what is the cost of this business of being busy? Most people cut corners on things they place the least importance on; for some it’s exercise. For many others…it’s sleep.
However, if you want to be PRODUCTIVE vs. just busy, cutting out exercise and sleep are probably the worst things you can do. Right now, I’m going to focus on sleep.
Why Sleep?
Sleep is necessary for brain function and emotional well-being. It helps facilitate learning, helps you pay attention, make decisions and be creative. A lack of sleep can impair your decision making processes and is linked to depression, suicide and risk-taking behavior.
Children who are sleep deprived have problems getting along with others, feel sad and depressed and lack motivation.
Sleeping is important in your overall physical health and vitality; it’s necessary for the healing and repair of heart and blood vessels. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to:
· Obesity
· Heart disease
· Kidney disease
· Hypertension
· Diabetes
· Stroke
Lack of sleep is just as dangerous as drunk or “tipsy” driving. According to the CDC, in 2013 10,000 people were killed in alcohol related accidents. Compare this with statistics from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which report that nearly 100,000 accidents can be directly related to drowsy driving.
How much sleep do you need?
Some people say they function perfectly well on 4-5 hours of sleep but I think that is either an exaggeration or they have a different definition of “function.” Most people report feeling good with 6 hours, most between 7 and 8 and some outliers need between 8 and 10.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests asking yourself a few questions to determine the proper sleep duration best for you:
  • Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
  • Do you have health issues such as being overweight?
  • Are you at risk for any disease? Are you experiencing sleep problems?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • Do you feel sleepy when driving?
The NSF also has updated sleep recommendations:
  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
Optimum sleep conditions
There is indeed a sleep revolution going on with more and more research that supports that there are conditions that promote getting to sleep and more importantly, staying asleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a good night’s sleep involves all of our senses:
Be mindful of what you eat and/or drink a few hours before bedtime. A light snack of whole wheat crackers, a small spoonful of peanut butter or cereal with milk make Tryptophan more available to your brain and encourages sleeps. Stay away from foods that may upset your stomach like fried or spicy foods and stay away from alcohol which may make you sleepy initially but makes it harder to sleep deep and continuously. And do I really need to say that caffeine should be avoided several hours before sleep?
If you have allergies, sneezes and sniffles can certainly keep you up. Keep your bed free of dust mites by washing your sheets weekly and your blankets regularly. Wash your pillows (if they are washable) and dry them at a high temperature. Look into a cover that seals your box spring, mattress and pillows completely. Vacuum your home regularly and consider and air purifier.
Launder your sheets with a scent you enjoy or add a few drops of Lavender or Vanilla to your pillow and sheets.
Here are 13 other scents for sleep:
Valerian Extract; Sandalwood; Juniper; Lemon; Bergamot; Frankincense; Ravensara; Marjoram; Roman Chamomile; Geranium; Rose; Ylang Ylang; Jasmine. Click here for more information.
No television in the bedroom! The distraction from the noise and lights prevents sleep.
Get the television out! Even if you are able to fall asleep with the TV on, the inconsistent sounds that may erupt from it could be enough to jolt you awake and then you may have more difficulty getting back to sleep.
Consider a white noise machine to help you drown out the sounds of a noisy neighborhood.
Establish a pre bed time routine about 30 minutes before you turn in by powering down the television and putting on soothing music.
Make your bedroom a place of calm and peacefulness by keeping it neat, clutter can make you feel anxious and/or restless.
Keep your bedroom dark by using black out curtains and blinds.
Electronics – OUT! That means television, radio, tablet, and computer. The temptation to turn them on for a moment is too high and exposure to them cranks your brain up instead of calming it down. In addition, the blue light emanating from them lowers Melatonin which helps control your daily sleep wake cycle. When Melatonin is high you sleep, when it is low you wake.
Want to sleep through the night? Make sure your bedroom temperature is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit
Temperature. Studies are showing that there is an ideal temperature for sleeping which is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. During the course of the day your body temperature rises and falls slightly and this pattern is linked to your sleep cycle. As you become drowsy your temperature lowers reaching nadir at 5 a.m. climbing slightly as morning begins. If the air is too warm, it may interfere with your body’s natural dip make your more restless during the night.
Make your bed!!
Your mother was right! There may be a connection between feeling good about where you sleep and sleeping through the night.
New Mattresses and Pillows
The lifespan of a mattress is about 10 years and pillows about two years but evaluate this for yourself. Do you wake you refreshed or do you wake up stiff and achy? Are there lumps, bumps and/or areas where the mattress is sagging? Ditto for the pillow. Is it supporting your head and neck properly? If you determine that it’s time for a new one, take your time test driving. Spend at least 20 minutes on the mattress you’re thinking of. If you spent a night in a hotel and the bed felt especially wonderful, ask the staff where the mattress is from. I can sleep absolutely anywhere but when I stayed at the Westin Hotel, I felt like I was sleeping on a cloud. When I asked the staff about this dreamy bed they said it was the Heavenly Bed made especially from them. I swear to you, I will have one!
Book Authored by Deidre Ann Johnson

Keep this handy book by your desk while working or in your carry on when travelling for tips to keep you flexible and pain free.