Sleep – Benefits of Sleep

Sleep…how important. I can’t sleep once again tonight, and it has been challenging this last year. What a horrible couple of days, weeks, and lets be honest, a challenging 12 months. As a write from this hotel room after a long day(s) including driving, sleep deprivation is used by some people as a badge of honor or for bragging rights, and some say they need only a few hours 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, always “online” or 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 from multiple experts 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. It is harmful to your health if you do not sleep on a regular, consistent basis. It is also risky, with stories of people falling asleep behind the wheel of a car or truck drivers killing people due to lack of sleep….just google Tracy Morgan and Wal-Mart.

While I was never the “best” sleeper even prior to this last year, I was a better one and often got enough consistent rest. But among other things my stress levels, personal situation, and active mind have really impacted my recent sleep over these last several months. I think my last good couple night(s) of sleep were last November.

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 really a better life. Studies show it brings 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. Not getting enough sleep can make you reach for comfort, fatty or 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 or their business, 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, diseases and infections at bay. Bodily repairs occur during sleep as extra protein molecules are released at night which strengthen its ability to fight infection. The benefits of this include 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. All families, no matter their income, can benefit from it. Ways to improve sleep include:

Keep a consistent sleep schedule 7 days a week. I really emphasize this. When I am sleeping well, consistency is key. 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. Do not go on cell phone, tablets, or other devices as they have “blue light”, which is proving to impact sleep and increase stress. I know people who sleep with their cell phone right by their head and wake up to every text in the middle of the night. Now not sure why people get texts in the middle of the night, but anyway cell phones, being online, blue light, TV running, etc. all greatly impact sleep.

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, which will benefit your long term health.

Stretching, meditating or deep breathing exercises can help you relax and lower anxiety to prepare your body for sleep.

Set up the proper sleep environment. Wear comfortable clothes or “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. Even though I sleep in a quiet environment, I still love the white noise/fan machines especially when in hotel rooms like now. 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. I just hope I can get back on track someday with my sleeping!

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