Friday, March 18th was World Sleep Awareness Day. Is it a coincidence that it's the day after St. Patrick's Day? I'll let you decide.
Day 22: What you need to know about sleep
What's not a coincidence is that today I have chosen to dedicate one of my 28 messages to the importance of sleep. Sleep, in my opinion, is THE most important thing you can evaluate and improve, starting today. If you do nothing else for your health, do this one.
Sleep is on the ONLY time your body is able to get in an anabolic state, meaning building and repairing muscle mass as opposed to breaking down. that's not the only thing it repairs. Sleep allows the body to repair the heart and blood vessels. In summary, it allows the body to decrease any inflammation from the long day.
It's also associated with chronic diseases like kidney disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, and stroke. The short-term consequences are not foreign to anyone, I'm sure. We've all had a bad night of sleep or partied till 2 in the morning once or twice. If you are a parent, you know all too well.
Not enough sleep is classified as less than 7 hours a night. You can attribute lack of sleep to brain fog, slow reflexes, irritability, lack of motivation, increased hunger, and a decreased ability to feel full. Cognitive functions also decrease pretty significantly. Once again, you can thank those sleepless nights when you put the milk in the pantry and your car keys in the refrigerator. Sports performance is also impaired. Research demonstrated a 42% increase in accuracy in tennis players when hitting for depth when sleep was improved from suboptimal to optimal. That's a significant finding to say the least!
So, what causes you to not get enough sleep? Here are four tips to start you off:
Consider your blue light stimulation. Are you on devices right before you go to bed? Consider reading in bed instead of "scrolling".
Include exercise or movement in your day. Exercise is tiring! Research suggests exercise improves the quality of your sleep.
Check your Vitamin D level (remember this guy?). You'd be surprised how quickly you will fall asleep when you add Vitamin D to your nighttime routine (if deficient).
Eat enough! Restriction is so common in our society because our world is obsessed with losing weight. Take a step back and make sure that you are eating enough for your health and sleep. I promise all the work or "will power" you have when you restrict will just be compensated for when the body decreases your metabolism and increases your hunger after your sleepless night!
Jen Pfeilfer, MS, APD
Dr. Thomas R. Schneider, Medical Director