We all know sleep is important. It improves our memory, helps us focus and ultimately, improves our probability of living longer. But despite the health benefits, Americans continue to struggle with not getting enough shut-eye each night. During Sleep Awareness Month, we want to encourage you to pay more attention to how much sleep you’re getting and if it’s not enough, to do better.
While we know a full night’s sleep improves our cognitive processes and helps lower emotional stress, it also impacts our physical health. While you’re sleeping, your body continues to work. It’s properly distributing insulin, synthesizing protein and producing growth hormones – all things that impact your ability to make healthy decisions, produce muscle mass and burn fat. This is particularly important for those trying to lose weight, stay in shape, and of course, train for competition.
For athletes, the right amount and quality of sleep can heavily impact performance on the field of play. Training depletes energy, fluids and breaks down muscle. In addition to hydrating and nourishing your body with healthy foods, sleep is also essential to the recovery process. Good quality sleep – and plenty of it – gives the body time to replenish energy levels and rebuild muscle mass broken down during training sessions. Not getting enough sleep or the best quality of sleep can mean fatigue, low energy, poor focus and ultimately, poor performance.
The Sleep Foundation lays out the following recommendations on hours of sleep to aim for each night:
Teenagers (14-17) should get 8-10 hours per night, adults (18-64): 7-9 hours, and older adults (65+): 7-8 hours. According to Gallup, Americans are averaging 6.8 hours of sleep per night. While this is close to the minimum 7-hour recommendation, over time, it’s causing chronic sleep deprivation.
Throughout the month, we encourage you to keep a log of your sleeping habits to make sure you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep each night to stay healthy. If you find that you’re not getting the minimum recommended amount of sleep each night, try some of these tactics to get to bed earlier and fall asleep faster.
First of all, prioritize sleep. Knowing the significant impact sleep has on your mental, emotional and physical health, it’s important to aim for a consistent bedtime so your body learns when it should start settling down. Once your body learns its bedtime, you’ll notice you’ll also start falling asleep faster.
Some studies have shown yoga to help with falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer, particularly with those who have insomnia. Try practicing yoga poses that promote relaxation like lying butterfly and corpse pose.
Being mindful of your diet will also help your sleeping habits. The two hormones that help regulate hunger, ghrelin and leptin, are affected by sleep. Gherlin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When you are sleep-deprived, your gherlin levels spike and your leptin levels fall, leading to an increase in hunger and an impulse to overeat.
It’s become common practice and in some cases, necessity, to interact with technology most of the day. But at night, silencing and turning off electronics at least an hour before bedtime will give you a better chance at falling asleep faster. What should you do for that hour you’re preparing for sleep? Try reflecting on your day, prepare for tomorrow by laying out your clothes for the next day, listen to calming music or try meditating.
Some people find themselves having issues sleeping after trying all of these options in addition to other tactics. If you find that you’re experiencing periods where you’re awake at night and wanting to sleep during the day, you may want to look into what’s called Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, or Non-24. Non-24 is a serious chronic circadian rhythm disorder that affects up to 70% of people who are totally blind. With Non-24, people may experience a constant daily shift in the times when their body expects to sleep and be awake. For more information and additional resources, please visit http://www.non-24.com or call 844-504-2424.
Disclosure: USABA developed this content with Vanda Pharmaceuticals, a trusted sponsor of USABA. We develop content with companies to promote products or services we believe our members and followers will find helpful or interesting.