Hit the Sheets: The Importance of Sleep
We really love to hit the sheets behind the Blue Door.
You know: catch some Z’s, crash, nod out, saw some wood, get forty winks, grab some shut-eye.
Sleep is great. But, with so many amazing and exciting things to experience and work on sometimes we fall a bit behind.
How truly important is getting enough sleep?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, we spend about ⅓ of our lives sleeping. They recommend 7-9 hours of sleep a night for adults. However, several studies have indicated about 50% of us sleep less than that. Most of us are in what we call “sleep debt”.
As we continue to get less than 7-9 hours of sleep a night, our sleep debt increases, as does our risk of obesity, diabetes, depression, heart disease, stroke, and memory loss.
If that doesn’t sound serious enough, evidence shows that after just one night of only 4-5 hours of sleep, the natural killer (NK) cells in the body (which attack cancer cells) drop by 70%. Lack of sleep is linked to bowel, prostate and breast cancer. The World Health Organization even designated night-shift work as a probable carcinogen due to the associated lack of sleep.
What does the science say about sleep and our hearts? A recent study showed that adults age 45 or older that sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime, as compared with those sleeping seven or eight hours a night. Even just one night of modest sleep reduction can increase the heart rate and significantly raise blood pressure.
More than 20 large scale epidemiological studies all report the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.
Whew, ok let’s take a deep breath. Obviously we have some solutions for you, come on, that’s what we do.
Perhaps the most important solution is regularity. Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day. This allows the brain to develop a pattern and deliver necessary sleep hormones at the correct level, maximizing not only the quantity of your sleep, but the quality as well. Sleep regularity has been shown to improve happiness, healthiness, and calmness.
Next, is our light situation. Our brain has certain evolutionary processes that allow us to fall asleep and stay asleep. These processes evolved during a time period when there was zero artificial light. Today we are a dark-deprived society. Light inhibits the production of a hormone called melatonin in our brains. Melatonin has many important functions, but mainly it tells our body when it is time to sleep. Dimming down or only using half your indoor lighting at night allows your brain to properly prepare for rest.
More importantly, we must try and restrict the usage of tablets, smartphones, and laptops before bed. Studies have shown a 55% reduction in the production of melatonin by folks reading on a screen versus those reading on paper in dim lighting.
Another solution? Cool it. No seriously, cool yourself down. According to sleep expert Dr. Matthew Walker, your brain needs to cool itself by 2-3 degrees fahrenheit to initiate sleep. He suggests a hot shower or bath before bed time. This allows for vasodilation; the blood moves to the surface of your body and when you get out of the bath, the laws of thermodynamics take care of the rest, bringing your core temperature way down and preparing you for sleep.
Three easily obtainable solutions to make us all immediately healthier and happier. It’s time for us all to take sleep seriously. Sleep science is a relatively new field of study and there is so much more for us all to learn about how sleep affects us and what we can do to make sure we remain well rested, happy, and healthy.
Share this with someone to improve their sleep!