Maybe you’ve been up late, burning the midnight oil, trying to finish that last proposal… or client project… or email…
Maybe the next day you found yourself nodding off while at your kid’s soccer game… or in a meeting… or while watching a movie… or most dangerously, while driving your car…
Maybe this isn’t an occasional occurrence, but it goes on night after night, day after day…
When you lack the proper amount of sleep, not only do you lose out on the benefits of sleeping well, but you also lose out on the opportunity to live each day fully aware and awake. And you may even put yourself or your loved ones in danger if you drive while drowsy.
Let’s first talk about what happens when you don’t get enough sleep:
- Your memory takes a hit. It’s harder both to learn and remember things; words always feel like they’re just on the tip of your tongue. Sleep helps your brain process new information from the day and consolidate it for easy retrieval.
- You can become moody, or even depressed, which also impacts your relationships.
- You’re not as alert, and can miss important cues in your environment. You don’t think straight, and have trouble making decisions, solving problems, and reasoning. This means – believe it or not – you’re more accident prone! Slipping, falling off a ladder, cutting yourself while slicing vegetables…
- Your immune system takes a hit and you’re more likely to pick up germs and illnesses.
- A consistent lack of sleep can actually make you more prone to heart disease and cancer.
- Your libido suffers. ‘Nuff said.
- You’re more likely to gain weight and then struggle to lose it.
- Your good looks disappear! In a study, people who didn’t get enough sleep discovered more fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin color, and “looser” skin in their faces.
The most frightening reason to make sure you get enough sleep is “drowsy driving”, which can actually be compared to driving while drunk. If you’ve been awake for 18 hours straight, you could be driving as if you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (for reference, .08 is considered drunk). If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours – for instance, after a night where you had trouble falling asleep – it’s like a blood alcohol level of .10.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 25 adult drivers have fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. And in 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes.
These are truly scary statistics, and reason enough to make sure you sleep well.
But let’s also look at the BENEFITS of getting a good night’s sleep, consistently. Obviously, you can count on the opposite of the above:
- Clear thinking
- A healthy sex drive
- Better health, both short-term and long-term
- Less chronic pain, if that’s something from which you suffer
- Lower risk of injuries and accidents
- Better mood… leading both to feeling positive, and to better relationships
- Better weight control
- Better memory
OK, but you may ask, “How do I actually get more sleep when I have trouble sleeping?”
I’m glad you asked! According to Dr. Richard Shane here are some tips that often help. As you lie in bed:
- Soften your tongue
- Loosen your jaw
- Calm your throat
- Listen to your sleep breath
- Calm your heart
This is a simple method that helps you relax your body and your mind, so you can fall asleep naturally.
And of course, watching what you eat – not overdoing it on sugars and caffeine, especially later in the day – and getting enough exercise every day, are critically important factors that help you sleep better at night.
I’m often surprised at how little we talk about sleep patterns in the health and fitness world since it can have such a dramatic impact on our weight and health.
If you’d like to speak with me about the health benefits of getting better sleep, and how your daily routine can help you doze off more easily, please contact me here. I’d love to help you turn from drowsy to energetic!
Jeff Snyder, Personal Training Manager