Health Talk
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Good Things Come From a Good Night’s Sleep

A survey by Harvard Women’s Health Watch found that more people are sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleep difficulties visit 75% of us at least a few nights per week.  If this happens once in awhile, it’s okay, but if you are always short of sleep, you need to figure out how to add in some more quality hours.

Sleep loss can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, weight gain and a decrease in our immune system. It’s also safer to be well rested. There is lots of evidence that lack of sleep leads to a greater probability that you’ll find yourself in an accident, or making a mistake.

How to get a good night’s sleep?
The experts agree on some tried and true techniques:

  • Make sure you get out in the daylight during the day, and sleep in a dark, cool room at night.
  • Limit or eliminate caffeine, which can keep you awake 12 hours after it’s consumed.
  • Turn off the TV and computer ahead of bedtime. If you spend evening hours in front of the TV or computer screen, the bright lights can suppress your body’s production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep.
  • Avoid heavy meals late in the evening. Digesting food actually keeps you awake!
  • Keep to a regular sleeping schedule, even on weekends. Get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time.
  • Get outdoors and be active at least 20-30 minutes a day.
  • Refrain from exercising 4 hours before bedtime.
  • If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something boring until you feel sleepy.

6 Reasons to Get Enough Sleep:

1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.

2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.

3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.

4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.

5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.

6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells.      Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

Resource: Harvard University