We all have days when we feel overwhelmed and may miss out on adequate sleep. Skipping a few hours sleep may not be life-threatening, but this should not become your norm.
It’s important to get some shut eyes because sleep is essential for proper daily body function. It boosts your immune system, repairs muscle and tissue damage, improves memory and helps your brain function at its best.
Amazingly, sleep is also linked to your weight as studies show that even with healthy eating and exercise, if you don’t get the recommended hours of sleep you may have trouble losing or managing your weight.
The amount of sleep you need depends on many factors, including your age. Teenagers need 8-10 hours and adults need 7-9 hours sleep per night; so the best way to get enough sleep is to make it a priority.
The quality of sleep you get is as important as how long you sleep, so if your sleep is frequently interrupted, it means you’re not getting enough rest.
Believe it or not, what you do throughout the day and the foods you eat determine how well you’ll sleep at nights. One substance that affects sleep is Caffeine. That’s because it’s a stimulant that prevents sleep, gives you energy and helps you stay alert.
Caffeine suppresses the natural sleep hormone, melatonin, disrupting your normal sleep cycle. Because caffeine can stay in your system for 5 to 6 hours, you are advised to not drink coffee or caffeinated drinks right before going to bed. Also keep in mind that stress and alcohol can make it hard to fall asleep.
Exercise can have a positive or negative impact on your sleep. If you don’t do much exercise during the day, you may find it difficult to fall asleep at night. However, if you exercise too close to bedtime, it will keep you awake. It is best to stop exercising at least 4 hours before bedtime.
Here are some other tips to help you get the quality sleep you need.
Turn off all distractions at least one hour before going to bed. This includes your computer, cell phone and TV.
When in bed, think relaxation, rather than work, stressors or entertainment.
Avoid stress. Studies show that stress lessens sleep time and lowers your quality of sleep. Stress causes insomnia by making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Create a bedtime routine and stick to it. You can take a long bath, meditate, listen to your favourite music or read.
Stick to a schedule, go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, even on weekends.
Watch what and when you eat. Avoid eating heavy meals and drinking alcohol close to bedtime. This may cause heartburn and make it hard to fall asleep. Avoid soft drinks, tea, coffee and chocolate after 2 p.m.
Turn out the lights when going to bed. Darkness cues your body to release the natural sleep hormone melatonin, while light suppresses it. It’s easier to fall asleep in the dark that in light.
Lack of sleep leaves you feeling tired, stressed and agitated. It may also be hard to focus or function the way you should. When you miss out on sleep, you’ll also be less alert and less attentive.
(Submitted by the Grenada Food & Nutrition Council)