Statesman Journal Living Well - March 2016
It may be called "beauty sleep" but getting a good night's rest affects your body in ways that are more than skin deep. From brain function to muscle growth, your body is taking care of serious business while you're catching those zzzs.
We spend about one-third of our lives asleep, and it is during those hours that our bodies reset for the other two-thirds of our awake life. While scientists are still not entirely sure why we sleep, they have identified important restorative processes that take place when we do.
- Reduced heart rate and blood pressure give your ticker a break
- Growth hormones are released, allowing our body to grow and repair itself
- Your brain processes what is learned during the day
Individuals may also report improved mood and alertness when they get a good amount of rest. The amount, however, differs among individuals. It is widely believed that toddlers should get about 14 hours of sleep between their nightly slumber and daytime naps. Adults do best with an average of 8 hours. Teenagers, at the peak of the human growth cycle, require more sleep than most of them are probably getting – nine or more hours. Defiantly something to consider when balancing school, sports and activities for your teen or young adult; their activity levels are usually at odds with the amount of rest they should be getting.
Productive sleep, quality may be just as important as quantity. Restless sleep does not allow a person to relax into the deep REM cycle in which restorative processes take place. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is so called because one's eyes move quickly in different directions during this phase.
Therefore, if sleep feels good and is good for you, how can you make sure you are getting enough? Our busy lives often only allow for minimal sleep so it is best to provide optimal conditions in which to rest productively.
- Keep the same schedule. Try to sleep and wake at the same time each day.
- Relax before bed – avoid stressful television shows or conversations. Put your phone and email away 30 minutes before you lie down.
- Limit naps during the day in order to rest well at night
- Make sure your bed – mattress, pillows and bedding – are comfortable and inviting.
A mattress typically has a lifespan of less than ten years.
- Get enough exercise
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Alcohol consumption might make you drowsy, but a spike in sugar may have you waking up in the middle of the night.
- Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room
- Make your bedroom is a TV, phone and device-free zone
Though all the reasons we sleep may still elude science, the dangers of not getting enough are real. Sleep deprivation can cause inattentiveness and drowsiness which leads to accidents in automobiles and on the job. Chronic lack of sleep can stress the body, putting it at further risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other cardiovascular conditions. If you feel you're not getting enough sleep, Santiam Hospital would like to remind you to talk to your primary care provider.