Oct 31 2014

Sleep Tips You Can Actually Use

In our fast-paced society, it’s almost a badge of honor to get too-little sleep and have a Starbucks Gold Card in exchange. But how healthy is it to treat sleep as a luxury for the weekend and vacations only?

In one study, participants who went 17-19 hours without sleep performed just as poorly (or worse) on tests of response speed and accuracy as when they had a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. To put that in perspective, going to bed at 1 a.m. when you normally wake up at 6 a.m. does the same thing to your brain as drinking alcohol. The worst part about this is that people are generally terrible at assessing how impaired they are by sleep loss.

Insufficient sleep can put you at risk for a number of chronic conditions and diseases. Some of those conditions are obesity, diabetes, weakened immune function, stroke, heart disease, depression, and fertility problems and miscarriage in women. Lack of sleep has also been linked to a 30% increased risk of dying prematurely.

Question: Are you one of those people that just do not require as much sleep as others? Do you get by, just fine, with 5 hours of sleep a night?

The truth: Probably not. Research has shown that you can become accustomed to sleep deprivation. So even though you think you’re doing ok, you are still chipping away at your health and wellbeing.

Ok, now that I’ve stressed just a FEW of the reasons to prioritize sleep (and probably stressed you out about it in the process), let’s discuss ways to help improve sleep quality.

Shift Workers/Employers: Please see the blog post specifically on sleep and shiftwork here.

Tips for Establishing a Good Sleep Environment:

·         Dark: use black out curtains or double layered curtains, remove electronics with lights that blink or stay on all night, change the battery in your blinking smoke alarm (Bonus tip: if you change your smoke alarm batteries every time you change the clocks for daylight savings, you'll never wonder if they are working).

·         Noise: seek quiet; use soft music (on a sleep timer so it doesn’t wake you later), white noise machine, or ear plugs.

·         Temperature: cool is better. About 68° for most people is best. Choose sheets and pajamas that keep you comfortable.

·         Distractions: avoid any activities in the bedroom that are stressful. You don’t really need to check your email one last time, set a curfew on chores,  and leave the bills for another room.

·         Avoid a crowd: pets are great and they relieve stress, but they also keep a lot of people from sleeping well.

Stay tuned for part two to learn more tips on establishing a sleep routine and other considerations.

Katie Buehrle

Certified Athletic Trainer