To Sleep or Not To Sleep: That is the Question

By: ERIN FOTHERGILL

Edited by: ARYA ROERIG

Have you ever found yourself dragging during the middle of the afternoon and just not feeling like yourself? While you may blame it on missing your daily caffeine fix or eating something that didn’t agree with you, the most likely cause is a problem with your sleep habits. As many as 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. The Natiosnal Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours sleep every night, but our collective lifestyles as a population are not always conducive to this. From late nights at work to school work, getting enough sleep isn’t always practical.

Failure to get enough sleep can have multiple negative repercussions on one’s health.  It can put excessive strain on the body, specifically the heart. A USA Today study found that those who got under six hours of sleep a night were four times more likely to suffer from a stroke.  Increased risk for diabetes is another risk factor involved with improper sleeping habits. Type 2 diabetes becomes a problem because of an inability to control blood sugar levels. The combination of these two factors makes faulty sleepers 69 percent more likely to be obese, says Women’s Health Magazine.

Your immunity to disease and infections can be jeopardized as well. A Harvard study showed that those with minimal sleep are three times more likely to catch the common cold.  Many of the body’s natural anti-inflammatories and antibodies can’t function without proper rest.

In a similar manner, your mental capacity for work and memory greatly decrease without sleep.  The next time you are tempted to pull an all-nighter to study for that exam, think again. You are more likely to score better by just hitting the sack early. A study in Sleep found the total competence of your brain’s storage without enough rest decreases by 15 percent.

How do you fix your routine to get more zzz’s? There are many options for change and doing so could possibly increase your mortality by up to 15 percent. While it may seem early, you should actually start thinking about sleep in the early afternoon. What you eat and drink from this point in time until when you actually go to bed can greatly affect the depth of your sleep.

“I don’t like people having caffeine after noon if they have poor sleep, because it can hang out in the system for a long time,” says Dr. Joyce Walseleben of New York University School of Medicine.

Try switching to decaffeinated tea or coffee instead. When it comes time to eat, make sure you are eating a meal full of complex carbohydrates and protein so you don’t wake up in the middle of the night hungry.  These meals, such as a small bowl of whole wheat pasta with roasted veggies and grilled chicken, will also provide a substantial dose of tryptophan, a sleep inducing amino acid.

The environment you sleep in also has a lot to do with the quality of your sleep.  The deepest of sleep occurs in a completely dark room with minimal to no noise.  While you may think listening to tunes before bed aids sleep, try switching to a white noise or sound machine which is more conducive to shuteye.

Lastly, turn off the electronics.  Even their presence next to your bedside table causes you to be more tempted to fiddle with them throughout the night.

Dr. Markus Schmidt of the Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute reports, “Four out of five kids that have cell phones sleep with the cell phone in the bedroom, next to their bed. Only one in 10 actually turn it off.”  This is a startling figure and may explain the reason behind many sleepless nights. Whatever approach you take to getting a better night’s rest, perhaps the most important thing is to instill a regular nighttime routine.  Soon you’ll be well on your way to feeling rested throughout the day.

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