Sleep deprivation is used by some people as a badge of honor or for bragging rights about only needing 4-5 hours a sleep each night. Other lower income families do not get enough as they are working multiple jobs just to bring in enough income to pay the monthly bills. In today’s fast paced, instant gratification world, many people of all income levels put sleep on the lower end of their priority list.
However, more or more information and studies are proving that lack of sleep is now considered the “new smoking.” Restful, quality sleep is incredibly important for the maintenance and regulation of just about every body function. Most adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep each night, while school aged children typically require 9-11 hours of sleep each night. The benefits of sleep include:
*Higher quality of life. A good night of rest provides mental clarity, higher energy levels and more efficient bodily functions. It also contributes to an overall feeling of emotional well-being. All this leads to better choices, high productivity levels and general feelings of happiness.
*Helps maintain a healthy weight. Lack of sleep slows down the body’s metabolism which means it burns fewer calories per day. It also causes an imbalance in the hormones that signal hunger, leading one to feeling hungrier than if they had a good night of sleep. This can make you reach for comfort, high calorie foods, leading to poor nutritional choices and weight gain. Also, buying those unhealthy foods tends to be expensive on your monthly grocery bill, so proper sleep saves you money on your food costs too.
*Helps increase focus and productivity at your job. Sleeping allows people to really shine at work, which can lead to more opportunities for a promotion and higher salary. Your boss will know if you are alert and efficient, and sleep helps with that.
*Reduces stress and inflammation levels in the body. Inflammation is linked to host of health problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This can reduce the need for often un-affordable prescription drugs that lower cholesterol.
*Helps keep the immune system running smoothly. A healthy immune system keeps illnesses like colds and infections at bay. Bodily repairs occur during sleep as extra protein molecules are released at night which strengthen its ability to fight infection. This leads to fewer sick days, less medical bills from visiting a doctor, and contributes to a healthy household.
*May reduce the risk of diabetes as lack of sleep affects how your body regulates glucose. High levels of glucose within the body increases the risk of diabetes, which can sometimes lead to people missing work and even needing to file for disability if it gets bad enough. As we are sure you know, the cash benefits from disability for benefits such as diabetes is not much money.
Tips for getting a good night of sleep
Sleep is not only vital to your body’s emotional, mental and physical regulation, it’s FREE. It costs virtually nothing to make sure you get a good night of sleep. Ways to improve sleep include:
*Keep a consistent sleep schedule 7 days a week. While this can be challenging if you are working multiple jobs to keep up with the bills or have children/seniors you need to care for, the fact is that waking up and going to bed at the same time every day and night can lead to sustained, high quality sleep patterns. An erratic sleep schedule or catching up on sleep during the weekend does not contribute to the health benefits of a quality rest.
*Keep all electronic appliances, including TVs out of the bedroom. Make your bedroom for resting and sleeping only and not a catch-all for various forms of stimulation like eating and TV watching. Not needing to buy another television for the bedroom also saves money on that purchase and can reduce monthly electric bills.
*Write down any concerns, problems or things you have ruminated on over the course of your day. If you are behind on bills or your rent, or in debt, try not to worry about it at night. Getting it all down on paper can reduce stress levels, helps your mind “switch off” for the night and prepares your body for sleep.
*Stretching, meditating or deep breathing exercises can help you relax and lower anxiety to prepare your body for sleep.
*Wear comfortable pajamas, keep the room temperature between 68-72 degrees, keep lights dim (which also saves money on utility bills) and consider using “white noise” to create a calm, quiet space for sleep. There are “white noise” apps or machines that are readily available, some of which are free. A fan also works just as well. Or if you can’t afford to buy these goods, try local thrift store or clothing bank.
*Reduce caffeine intake and try to stop drinking caffeinated products by early afternoon. Limit alcohol and smoking intake especially closer to bedtime. They interrupt the entire sleep process and stimulate the body very similarly to caffeine.
Sleep is vital to the quality of your life. It is a necessary function that leads to a healthy body and mind. Everything in your life, maybe even including your family’s financial situation, will improve if you make sleep a priority in your household. It’s free, manageable, and requires minimal discipline and forethought to achieve one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your family.