I found the top three physical challenges clients complain about and score low on the self-assessment tool are: eating, exercising and sleeping well. Which one is most important? Studies show that it is sleep. The below report originally published in 2006 and still holds strong in its findings is from the Harvard Women's Health Watch. Below that are a few suggestions to help improve your night of rest.
A recent survey found that more people are sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleep difficulties visit 75% of us at least a few nights per week. A short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about. The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss, which can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system's power.
While more research is needed to explore the links between chronic sleep loss and health, it's safe to say that sleep is too important to shortchange.
The Harvard Women's Health Watch suggests six reasons to get enough sleep:
- Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who'd slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
- Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
- Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
- Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
- Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
- Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body's killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.
What Helps Me Go To Sleep
1. Digital wind-down - unplug one to two hours before bed. This gives your brain a chance to unwind and get ready for sleep.
2. Eat a high-protein snack within two hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production.
3. Add some invaluable me-time to the mix. This could include, reading, writing, pampering or meditating.
4. Once in bed, if your mind is racing or dwelling on a particular negative or fear based thought, change the channel by thinking of a "feel good" movie or TV scene, a pleasant memory from a vacation or a recent loving moment with loved ones or animal. Stay focused on those positive thoughts; your mind will relax and you will fall asleep.
5. Sleep aides are sometimes a necessity - I use lavender or roman chamomille or a combination of both at the base of my neck/head area, my temples and behind but on my ear lobes. II then breathe in the oils by cupping my hands around my nose. I also diffuse these oils by my bedside. I also drink Sleepytime Extra with valarian. My friends Mollie and Mike turned me on to this tea.