Our bodies need rest. While researchers have proposed multiple theories over the years to the actual purpose of sleep, it’s clear that our bodies need it to be healthy.
How lack of sleep affects us
Being tired and inattentive from lack of sleep presents a significant danger for those driving to and from work. Statistics indicate that drowsy drivers are responsible for 100,000 automobile crashes per year, which result in 71,000 injuries and 1550 deaths.
Lack of sleep also affects our ability to metabolize sugar. In the evening, our bodies usually experience low cortisol levels, preparing us for sleep. Sleep deprivation causes cortisol levels to rise in the evenings, suggesting that lack of sleep could be a stressor.
Another side effect of poor sleep could be hormonal changes. Changes in hormones affect hunger and appetite, which may result in overeating, weight gain, and obesity.
Dr. Michael Thorpy of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center says, “Any American making a resolution to lose weight . . . should probably consider a parallel commitment for getting more sleep.” Dr. John Winkelman of the Sleep Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital says, “better sleep habits may be instrumental to the success of any weight management plan.”
Why do I need better sleep?
- Associated with some central nervous system disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety, and ADD)
- Can play a role in heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke
- Negatively impact the enjoyment of normal daytime activities
- Stress induced by lack of sleep results in difficulty in sleeping
Foods containing tryptophan eaten as part of your evening meal may aid in the beginning of the sleep cycle. Tryptophan is a precursor to the production of serotonin, a mood elevator.
The getting-to-sleep stage also depends on our bodies’ production of melatonin, another neurochemical that depends on adequate levels of serotonin, which, as mentioned above, requires tryptophan.
The use of a high-quality, broad spectrum nutritional supplement, like Truehope EMPowerplus, can help restore proper neurochemical balance. Re-establishing this balance is only the first step. Breaking bad habits that formed during those painful, wakeful nights will help to get sleep back on the moonlight path.
1. Go to bed at the same time
Go to bed and get out of bed at the same time every day. Make a special note on your calendar of the time you tucked in and the time you got up. This will help you be more aware of your true schedule. You must stick to this schedule no matter what. Even if you did not get to sleep until 3 am, you must get up at your scheduled wake time and go to bed again at your scheduled sleep time.
2. Lighten up when you need to get up
Turn on bright lights or open the curtains at the time when you need to get up. This will immediately help alert the body that nighttime is over.
3. Avoid stimulants before bed
Avoid any stimulants before going to bed. This includes coffee, chocolate, and caffeinated sodas and teas. The more you give yourself a break from stimulants, the more likely your body will give you the few extra hours of sleep that you need.
4. Avoid junk food
Avoid eating foods and snacks that force those afternoon naps. Foods and snacks that are made primarily with simple carbohydrates (basically, junk food) can spike your blood sugar, making you tired during the day. Eat healthier foods, and save the sleep for bedtime.
5. Get rid of electronics
Eliminate electronic equipment in the bedroom that disrupt the darkness. This includes anything that has flashing or ghostly green and blue lights (e.g. televisions, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and computers). If you’re serious about getting a better sleep, leave it off at bedtime.
6. Create expectations
Tell yourself what you expect when you’re getting ready for bed. Make it clear that you’re going to get a good night’s sleep, and you will awake refreshed and ready for the new day. This may sound difficult at first, but it is really not at all.
Reprogramming our habits can be as simple as telling ourselves what we want: what we want from our sleep, what we expect, and even what time we want to wake up. It may not work every time, but changing and developing habits takes time.