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Why Quality Sleep is Actually a Matter of Life or Death

I’m not being dramatic when I say that quality sleep is a life or death matter.  There’s a reason sleep deprivation is considered “torture” by the United Nations.  Over time, lack of sleep can lead to a breakdown of the nervous system as well as severe physical and psychological damage.

In your day-to-day life, you likely don’t experience sleep deprivation to such an extreme…but not getting enough sleep over years will have the same effects.

It simply happens more slowly.

Getting a good night’s sleep seems elusive in a world of artificial light, long work hours, and technology that we are connected to 24 hours a day.

Make no mistake, lack of sleep kills!  It stresses you up, shortens your lifespan, and women are 50% more likely to be sleep-deprived than men!  Consistent sleep deprivation leads to rapid aging, depression, and increases your risk of serious disease such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Let’s discuss how these three specific “rhythms” have been wired into your very core before your birth and regulate vital body functions:

  • Ultradian rhythms last less than twenty-four hours. Your heartbeat, digestive system, and the functions of your endocrine system – and its release of hormones – are all governed by ultradian rhythms.
  • Circadian rhythms are cycles that last approximately twenty-four hours. The most well-known example of this type of rhythm is your sleep cycle.
  • Infradian rhythms are those that last for longer than a day. A good example of the infradian rhythm is the female menstrual cycle.

When these basic rhythms are disrupted, your entire body will be thrown into chaos.

For instance, workers who pull overnight shifts have a bodyweight that is 15% heavier on average than their co-workers who work during daylight hours.  They are also more susceptible to major depression.

What Can You Do When the Deck Is Stacked Against You?

You might make empty promises yourself to get more sleep and yet it never seems to become a reality.  Life is hectic and it is important to make restful sleep a priority for you to deal with the demands on your time and energy efficiently.

There’s an old saying…work smarter, not harder.  Getting enough deep, quality sleep enables better concentration, memory, and creates a positive mood immediately.

By getting more sleep in the words of English dramatist Thomas Dekker, “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

It will improve every aspect of your life.  You need to change the way you look at sleep, consider getting enough sleep crucial to your health – because it is.

Prof’s 7 Tips for How to Get a Full Night of Quality Sleep

  1. Disconnect an hour before bed! Between social media, cell phones, and the ability to record our favorite television shows to watch when we want, you are “attached” to technology around the clock.  One hour before bed, enable “do not disturb” on your phone, log out of social media, get away from the computer or television, and if you listen to music, select something calm and soothing, preferably without words.  There are many free apps with a variety of ambient sounds from waterfalls to white noise to help you relax.
  2. What you eat and drink makes a difference! Caffeine, nicotine (tobacco), high-sugar treats, and alcohol “stir up” the body and stimulate inflammatory responses that should be winding down.  Also don’t go to bed on a full stomach and don’t starve yourself either it will also distract you from how to get a good night’s sleep.  Curb your eating at least two hours before bed and choose water or herbal (caffeine free) tea to settle the digestive system.
  3. Get super cozy! Throughout the day, even if it isn’t noticeable, we shed dead skin cells and sweat.  A shower before bed cleans the skin and opens the pores.  Choosing soft clothing that fits the way you like, adding socks if you tend to get chilled at night, and laying your head on your favorite pillow are little tricks to make sleep the wonderful experience it should be.
  4. Create a sleep oasis! Your bedroom and your bed should be an oasis – a place you look forward to being in because it makes you feel positive and relaxed.  The right color on the walls, the best mattress for you, a good darkness (and temperature) level while sleeping, and minimal noise can be the key to the best sleep you’ve had in years.  If you can’t make huge changes, consider taking one project at a time to improve how you feel about your “sleep oasis” – you won’t regret it.
  5. Keep to a routine! You might love staying up late and sleeping in on the weekends but if you’re having trouble sleeping, you need to keep to the same schedule every day of the week until your body becomes accustomed to getting the sleep it requires.  Set an alarm every night to remind you to go to bed.  Avoid the snooze button in the morning.  Hitting the snooze button disturbs your circadian rhythms.  Get up when it’s time for you to actually get up.  Give sleep the importance it deserves.
  6. Get moving during the day! Ten short minutes a day is enough to make a huge difference in the sleep quality.  Activities such as yoga and tai chi add an element of meditation to your exercise that is incredibly beneficial.  When possible, try to take those ten minutes outside in the sunshine.  It will boost your production of vitamin D, help you absorb calcium, and improve your mood.
  7. Settle your mind before slipping between the covers! If you live a stressful or very busy life, the endless “tasks” you handle can distract you from getting rest.  Two hours before bed, write a prioritized list for the following day then know you cannot do any of them until you rest.  You might even want to take up journaling to express tension and worry you might not even realize you have.  As you lie down, take the time to visualize positive things in your life and breathe deeply for several minutes.

You must give yourself “permission” to sleep.  You need to know that you aren’t a slacker by accepting your need for quality sleep and allowing nothing to get in the way of getting it.

The answer is not to boost your body artificially with caffeine, sleeping pills, or insist you can “get by” on very little sleep.

The truth is: the only thing you’ll “get” without enough quality sleep is disease.

You need sleep…make sure you get it.


The post Why Quality Sleep is Actually a Matter of Life or Death appeared first on Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby.

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