Sleep Matters - Here's Why

The importance of sleep is not a new concept. I’m not talking about when your parents made you go to bed early, so they could get a break! Your actual life depends on it.  Good sleep is 100% worth the effort to get it! Sleep can give you the edge at work, the compassion in your relationships and improve your ability to react quickly... in an appropriate manner!

Signs of chronic sleep deprivation include slow reaction times, brain fog, reduced athletic performance and increased risk of illness and in some cases persistent pain. (Dr. Andrew Rothschild, DPT, FAAOMPT - Instagram @spear_physio)

Why do you need good sleep? Aside from just feeling better and more rested, good regular sleep can radically improve your health and quality of life. “The fact is, when we look at well-rested people, they’re operating at a different level than people trying to get by on 1 or 2 hours less nightly sleep,” says Mitler Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at National Institutes of Health In professional sports, teams are starting to build time for naps into travel schedules to help their athletes be better rested and recovered.  Sleep is being recognized and leveraged as a performance enhancer.

Too often we assume we can ‘get by’ on 6 hours of sleep just fine. The problem is that your body adjusts to this decreased level of restorative sleep so your overall performance may suffer without you really even noticing. Have you found yourself saying “I must be getting older because I can’t remember anything!”? Or do you blame your bad memory and brain fog on children, changing schedules or other life stresses? Studies show that your ability to adapt and recover is seriously impacted (yes, negatively) by poor sleep.

Depression can be greatly exacerbated by too little sleep as well. Will more sleep cure you?  Maybe. We aren’t saying you are depressed because you don’t sleep enough. Depression is a complex disorder. But we are saying that your likelihood of recovery or adequate management  is lessened by too few hours of sleep.

Did you know research shows that lack of sleep increases the risk for obesity, heart disease and infections?  This really is good news. It reminds us that our bodies are predictable and adaptable! It’s also good news in that there are some really simple ‘life hacks’ or practices that will help you reach your health goals. One of them is SLEEP!

It is easy enough to talk about sleep, but how do you get more/enough sleep? Practice.  It’s true. And with anything you need to practice, you may not be good at it at first. Make note of where you need to improve first.  Do you have trouble falling asleep? Staying asleep? Falling back to sleep? Does pain keep you from restful sleep? Do you wake up thinking about things that stress you?

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Meditate.  This may be as simple as finding something calming to think about before bed. There are apps that can play specific frequency rhythms to help your mind and body settle in. Maybe a familiar book at bedtime - you know, the ones made of paper.  Nothing suspenseful, you don’t want surprises or anything that raises your heart beat.

Routine. Take a warm bath every night. Put your blue light devices (phone, tablet…) away 30-60 min before bed time. Play the same calming music before bed, with a timer to turn off so it doesn’t wake you. Stop eating well before bedtime so the digestive process doesn’t keep you up.

Move. Get some exercise! Make sure your body is tired by bedtime and not just your mind. Movement is good for all our body’s processes, but we often miss the importance of good physical fitness for restorative sleep. If you wake often due to pain, this may also be keeping you from exercising.  Consider getting a good mattress to replace your current one, if you find your body hurting upon rising.

See a Doctor. Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders are not merely inconvenient, they can impact your health significantly.  A CPAP machine can help you get restorative sleep while you build your physical fitness and lose weight that may be causing your air passages to be compromised.

Hey, follow our hashtag on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook to see our #30PTtips30days series! We are covering Sleep, Fuel and Movement over the next 30 days.

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