Importance of sleep in maintaining a better health.
Sleep is a basic human need. It is not optional. It's as necessary as food and water for survival. Of course, everyone has experienced an occasional night when they have trouble falling asleep. It may be annoying, but it isn't really harmful. But usually, these episodes are brief and your sleep pattern returns to normal very quickly. However, if you experience sleep deprivation for longer periods, this is called insomnia, and if it is allowed to go unchecked, it may become a pattern that is hard to break.
How much sleep does a person really need? Babies sleep about 16 hours a day. Teenagers need about 9 hours on average. For most adults, 7 to 8 hours a night appears to be the best amount of sleep, although there are some people that can function perfectly on as few as 5 hours. However, there are people who require up to 10 hours of sleep each day. The answer is...there is no fixed answer.
So how do you know if you have a sleeping problem? If you answer "yes" to more than two of these questions, you may have a sleeping disorder.
- Do you have difficulty falling asleep?
- Do you wake up and then can't get back to sleep?
- Do you feel sleepy during the day?
- Do you wake up feeling tired?
- Do you experience an energy-drop in the afternoon?
- Do you ever feel you're going to fall asleep while driving?
The leading causes for sleeplessness are concerns about work, school, health or family. They can keep your mind too active, making you unable to relax. Prescription drugs and many over-the-counter medications can interfere with sleep. Even eating too much at bedtime can cause an uncomfortable feeling that will keep you awake. Sleeplessness is a common complaint of women as they enter into menopause. There are physical and psychological factors that can interfere with normal sleep patterns. Sleeplessness may be a side-effect of adjusting to new work-shift hours. Also, falling asleep becomes more difficult as we age; and women are twice as likely to have insomnia then men. Jet lag is another factor that may disturb a person's biorhythms and cause sleeplessness. And believe it or not, by trying too hard to fall asleep, you're actually keeping yourself awake.
Nearly ten years ago, in May 1997, CNN reported that sleep problems were becoming an epidemic-the #1 health-related problem in the U.S. Many health researchers have linked sleeplessness with such health consequences as fatigue, depression, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and a shortened life-span.
A survey done by the National Sleep Foundation discovered that:
- Almost 74% of all Americans do not get enough sleep each night.
- 51% of adults say they have problems sleeping at least a few nights each week.
- Almost 1/3 have trouble sleeping every night.
- Those with sleep problems are twice as likely to feel stressed and tired.
- Sleep deprivation costs $150 billion each year in higher stress and reduced worker productivity (National Commission on Sleep Disorders, 2003).
The Mayo Clinic states that almost all adults don't get enough sleep and most struggle to get up in the morning.
Things you can do to improve sleep quality.
- Try to incorporate nutrition into your diet that promotes healthy sleep cycles. A good healthy diet eaten at regular times can contribute to the quality of your sleep.
- Avoid exercise within three hours of going to bed, as this will boost alertness and have a negative effect on sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that exercise in the afternoon, approximately 4-6 hours before bed time, can help reduce the time it takes for you to fall asleep and give you a deeper sleep.
- Avoid napping during the daytime.
- Depending on your sensitivity, reduce stimulants (tea, coffee, chocolate, cigarettes) at least three hours before you sleep. Stimulants contain caffeine which prevents quality deep sleep. Caffeine increases the activity of the central nervous system.
- Reduce sedatives (alcohol and some medications) which can impair one's ability to have quality deep sleep. You should seek advice from your doctor before stopping 'prescribed' medications.
- Reduce factors which might arouse you from sleep: external noise, use ear plugs if necessary; an uncomfortable bed or extreme temperatures.
- Hide your bedroom clock. Get plenty of morning sunlight. This will help regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
- Eat a light snack (mainly carbohydrates with little protein) before bedtime. This will help your body produce serotonin, the calming hormone.
- Avoid dwelling on the day's events. Get into a sleep routine such as reading before bed or if you prefer, watching TV or listening to soothing music. Do whatever you find most relaxing.
- Get out of bed at a regular fixed time each day.
- Switch to hypo allergy sheets and pillows
Sleep is essential to keep you physically and mentally healthy. Sleep support supplements containing an all-natural blend of nutrients are non-addictive and may nutritionally assist your body in resetting its biological clock so you can reestablish a healthy and appropriate sleep rhythm. Some of these nutrients are:
- Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland (in the brain) that controls the body's circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is the body's internal clock that tells us when to sleep and when to wake up.
- Valeriana Officinalis, Matricaria chamomilla, and papaver rhoeas are all herbs which have traditionally been used for sleep disorders and anxiety.
- 5HTP, a compound produced by the body from tryptophan, regulates serotonin and melatonin.
- Vitamin B6 is important for the brain and nerves to function normally. A deficiency is believed to cause irritability, nervousness, insomnia and general weakness.
- Taurine is an amino acid, and potent antioxidant. Reports have shown that sufficient taurine levels may contribute to a feeling of calmness, essential to restful sleep.
And once you get the uninterrupted sleep your body craves, you'll wake up feeling alert, sharp, energized and ready to start the day. It is always a good practice to study the ingredients of any supplement before taking them. Check with your doctor whether a sleep support supplement is advisable for you.