“Sleep is the grease that makes your life work.”
Dr. Savard and I presented at the same event recently, and this line from her program struck me as brilliant. “Sleep is the grease that makes your life work. A good diet and exercise are important, but they can’t work if you aren’t getting enough sleep,” she advised.
Think about it.
You need energy to exercise and to digest well – without sleep your body doesn’t function the way it should.
Are you getting enough sleep? Here’s some ways to tell:
- Do you find your mind wandering when reading a magazine article?
- Do you have trouble focusing your eyes when you are driving?
- Do you hit the snooze button several times each morning?
- Do you feel like the volume is turned up on your emotions?
- Do you forget appointments or important dates?
- Do you carry extra weight around your middle, no matter how much you count calories or exercise?
Lack of sleep has significant health consequences now and into the future. Without enough good quality sleep your body doesn’t have the chance to process stress and increased cortizol levels lead to more belly fat as well as a higher risk of heart disease and other serious medical conditions.
Even energetic 30-somethings are laying the foundation of their future health. Lack of sleep can mean they are laying calcium deposits in their arteries as well. A recent study concluded people who consistently sleep five hours per night or less have a much more likely to develop the “hardening of the arteries” type of heart disease than people who slept seven to eight hours per night. The damage begins in your 20s and 30s.
In addition lack of sleep decreases your mental agility, alertness and impairs your immune system. According to Dr. Tracey Marks, author of Master Your Sleep:
“… there is no set number, the average number of hours of sleep required is generally determined to be between 7 – 9 hours for an adult. …Many people feel they can “get by” on less sleep. They may go several weeknights with six hours only to sleep in on the weekends and require 10 hours. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to make up the sleep debt you can incur by going several nights sleeping less than the sleep required by your body. One or two nights of “sleeping in” usually doesn’t make up for what was lost.
The easiest way to determine the sleep required for your body is to observe how long you sleep during a vacation when you are not using an alarm clock. How long will your body sleep? Although this is not a hard and fast rule, in general, the use of an alarm clock suggests sleep deprivation. That is, if a person gets the sleep required, they can fall asleep at a fairly regular time and wake without an alarm clock.”
How can you get a better night’s sleep?
- Get on schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Allow your body to get into a routine. Napping and sleeping late mess up your body’s natural rhythm and should be limited.
- Get some light. Help your body figure out when it is time to be awake and time to sleep. Get some natural light during the day and then dim the lights as you head to bed.
- Get quiet. Spend the last 30 minutes before you turn out the light in calm and peace. Read something light and entertaining, listen to calming music, or meditate. Often laying out clothes for the morning or writing a list of things to do before you start the quiet time can help you let go of worries and relax.
- Get comfy. Set yourself up for success with a bed and bedroom designed just for sleep. Avoid watching television, working, eating, or writing out your list of things to do while on your bed. Allow your brain and body to association your bed with sleep — and well … sex only.
- Get some exercise. Moving around during the day will wear you out and help you sleep. However, avoid exercise (except for gentle stretching) within two hours of bed time. Late night exercise revs you up and will make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Get help. Talk to your doctor if you regularly have trouble sleeping.
If sleep is the grease that makes your life work – make your you get enough to keep things going smoothly!
Eliz Greene works busy people to improve heart health, so they can work well, feel better, and stress less.
She is a heart attack survivor and the author of the Busy Woman’s Guide to a Healthy Heart as well as 3 other books on wellness. She writes one of the top 50 health and wellness blogs and is a sought-after wellness & stress management speaker.
If you are planning a women’s wellness program, workplace wellness program or programs for healthcare professionals check out EmbraceYourHeart.com to see if Eliz would be a good fit with your organization.
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