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Sleep: It Does A Body (And Mind) Good.

Today we are going to talk about sleep, the impact it can have physically, mentally, and emotionally, and give some tips to increase your overall quality of sleep.

Let’s be honest. Sleep is awesome. It is essential to help repair and regulate the body and mind. Adults need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep per night.  Children, who are still developing, need much more.

Why do we need so much?

Sleep is essential for the body to be able to repair muscle, regulate our organs, hormones and is important to keep a strong immune system.  When we don’t sleep, or get too little sleep, we leave the body vulnerable.  Think of it like recharging a battery.

Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, heart disease and a host of other physical issues.

What happens to us mentally when we don’t sleep? Randy Gardner found that out. He is in the Guinness book (Woo!) and holds the record. He went without sleep for over 11 days (Boo!).

 https://www.npr.org/2017/11/06/562305141/eleven-days-without-sleep-the-haunting-effects-of-a-record-breaking-stunt

With sleep deprivation you can hallucinate, your ability to solve problems decreases and you struggle with retaining information. You are not able to learn or process new information as quickly or as easily as someone with a good night’s sleep.

You are also less able to regulate your mood when sleep deprived.  People are more prone to irritability, frustration, anger, sadness and stress. Long term, limited sleep has been associated with Depression, Anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Limited sleep also impacts the type of sleep you receive (R.E.M. and non-R.E.M.), and also can impact dreaming. Dream disruption is linked to PTSD.

https://www.npr.org/2017/11/13/563831137/the-swiss-army-knife-of-health-a-good-nights-sleep

To me, J. R.R. Tolkien’s character Bilbo Baggins describes the feeling of too little sleep best (sure, he’s talking about the impact of the one ring but…eh, the analogy works). “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scrapped over too much bread”. I feel ya Bilbo.

So what can be done?

Practice good sleep hygiene. What this means is essentially “cleaning up” your sleep routine.

1.)    Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. This includes keeping the same bedtime and time you generally wake up. Yes, even on the weekends.

2.)    Create a sleep routine to help transition to sleepy time. Soothing music, meditation, a warm bath, herbal teas can all help to signal to your body that it is time to relax and prep for snoozin’.

3.)    Eliminate screen time at least 30 mins before bed.  The blue light these devices emit impacts the brain negatively and gets in the way of restful sleep.

4.)    Decrease alcohol use before bed.

5.)    Exercise.

If you find yourself continuing to struggle to sleep, see your doctor. Sleep issues can be a symptomatic for other health issues.

So, go out there and get some sleep! It is an essential element of self-care.