From improved performance to decreasing your chance of catching a cold, sleep has a profound effect on our health.
Here’s a few fun stats on the importance of getting enough, quality sleep:
Those who get less than seven hours of sleep per night are three times more likely to get sick from exposure to a virus.
- Decreased sleep before and after an injury has shown to increase symptoms (i.e. pain!).
- Increased sleep = increased performance. With longer sleep before an event
- Ultra-marathoners ran faster,
- Tennis players served and hit more accurately
- Golfers improved their handicap by 31.5%.
- Getting six hours of sleep per night for 1 week is equal to the cognitive decline of staying up for 24 hours straight.
- Getting six hours of sleep per night for 2 weeks is equal to the cognitive decline of staying up fro 48 hours straight.
- Reduced sleep for longer than four weeks has been shown to increase blood pressure and decrease sperm count, while also doubling your risk of heart attack. It has also been related to obesity (due to depression of hormones leptin and ghrelin), depression, and ADHD.
- Getting more sleep each night can increase our tolerance to pain, up to 25%. In other words, your condition/symptoms may be the same but you feel them less.
So how do we improve the quality of our sleep?
- Equipment: Your mattresses should be supportive, but not rigid. Pillows should support a neutral spine in your preferred sleeping position. Although cute, in the above image the kitty's pillow is too tall!
- Environment: Dropping one’s body temperature is key to falling asleep, so simply turning down the thermostat can help. Research shows the optimal sleeping temperature of a room is 65˚ F. A warm Epsom salt (magnesium) bath before bed can also help to aid falling asleep. Not only does the warm bath help to facilitate a drop body temperature, but magnesium is great for muscle relaxation. Next, light sources should be eliminated; this includes the TV as well as all electronic devices (iPads, laptops, etc). If a night light is desired, a good choice is a low-blue night light, as this spectrum of light doesn't effect melatonin production.
- Behavior: Eliminating caffeine and energy drinks are fairly obvious choices, however, drinking 8 oz. of cherry juice twice per day has been shown to increase sleep by 45 minutes nightly. Restricting sleep to a set schedule can help consolidate the need for sleep and help you get better quality of sleep. Finally, herbal support including Valerian root and/or Passiflora can get you into the zone while you establish your new routine.
- Nutrition: Mineral defeciency can play a role in our ability to sleep as well. If you tend to have trouble falling asleep, you may need more calcium (almonds, broccoli, and dairy are a few good sources). If falling asleep is fine but staying asleep throughout the night is the problem, you may need more magnesium (whole grains and leafy greens are good sources). These two nutrients have different calming effects on our physiology, so try to notice if there is a pattern and keep in mind that diet may be playing a role in how well you're sleeping.
As with all physical changes, it can take a couple of weeks to reap the benefits of your new sleep efforts, so don't get discouraged. Remember it's about progress, not perfection. Happy snoozing!!