Here’s to a Happy Sleep

By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D

Here's to a Happy Sleep | The Wellness Doer

How’d you sleep last night? For about 70 million Americans, yes, even readers of this wonderful, positive, life-enhancing website, the answer is, “not that good.”

Chronic sleep problems plague so many, that one in five Americans sleep less than six hours a night, affecting health in very serious ways.  What’s more, one in 24 American drivers actually fall asleep while driving, at least once a month.  Drowsy drivers account for one-third of all fatal traffic accidents.

Let’s be real “Welldoers” and help the sleepless get some needed sleep with some simple ABC’s of ZZZ’s. First some facts:

  • Adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Teens need about 8-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • School-age children need about 10-11 hours of sleep each night.

Got that? Yet, the average adult sleeps less than 7 hours per night and two-thirds of adults report never feeling well rested. And they pay a price.

When we get less sleep than is healthy, our reaction times slow down, our blood pressure rises, our testosterone decreases (10-15%), and we have a 50% greater likelihood of having a heart attack over time. Our respiratory system is affected and we are more likely to catch a cold.  We are more prone to depression and anxiety. And our metabolism gets all out of whack so that our grehlin and leptin hormones, responsible for normal satiated and hungry feelings, reverses—to the point that if we sleep less than 6 hours, we feel up to 25% hungrier and add the equivalent of eating a cheeseburger, 350-500 calories, to our nutrition the next day. By not sleeping we also actually do eat more during those opportune hours we are awake. Sleeping less than 5 hours a night for a year or longer, results in a threefold higher risk of type 2 diabetes compared with those people who get a healthy amount of sleep. Finally, as if all that isn’t enough, short sleepers have decreased longevity.

So what’s this mean? Do you have to beat yourself up if you party on the weekends and get less than 8 hours of sleep on occasion? Of course not. Anymore than you have to thrash yourself for having a wonderful piece of cake once in awhile. But you do have to plan to get past this lapse in a healthy way.

Here's to a Happy Sleep

Here are tried and true tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule each night—same time to go to bed and wake up
  • Turn down the heat and keep your bedroom cool
  • Be sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable for you
  • Use relaxation techniques before bedtime (bath, meditation, hot tub, massage)
  • Keep the bedroom dark and quiet
  • Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only
  • Read a good book before bedtime
  • Write in a journal to help get things off your mind (gratitude is best to write about)
  • Have a cup of herbal, caffeine-free tea
  • Forgo naps, especially over 30 minutes, and never near bedtime
  • If you don’t fall asleep within 15-30 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing
  • Stay away from the caffeinated drinks after 2:00 p.m.
  • Avoid spicy foods, sugary or salty foods
  • Stay away from alcohol before bedtime—it’ll help make you drowsy but give you a lousy night’s sleep and is responsible for 10% of chronic insomnia cases…and worsens snoring since it relaxes throat muscles
  • Exercise regularly, though avoid working out too close to bedtime…it’s the only way we know that healthy people can boost the amount of sleep they get.
  • Turn off any backlit computers, stay off the iPhone/iPad type equipment before bed since it only serves to keep you alert, suppressed much need melatonin, and resets your circadian rhythm
  • Turn off your cell phone at night
  • Check with your doctor about any medications you take, since beta blockers, diuretics, medications containing caffeine or alcohol, nicotine replacement products, thyroid hormone and others affect sleep.

Well, there you have it Wellness Doers, the ABC’s of ZZZ’s. Leonardo Di Vinci once said, “A well-spent day brings happy sleep.” Have a well-spent day; just make sure you have the happy sleep that goes with it.

Thanks for reading!