Quantity of Sleep – Sleep Deprivation has Consequences
Planning your day so that you allow enough time to sleep is essential to your overall well-being and quality of life. Such planning includes allowing enough time to awaken naturally – without an alarm clock – so you get as much sleep as you need! Studies show that lack of sleep leads to problems completing a task, concentrating, making decisions and unsafe actions. Recent research suggests that sleep deprivation impacts on aging and diabetes. Insufficient sleep may also make it difficult to exercise and can reduce the benefit of hormones released during sleep. Just as compelling are the serious consequences of sleep deprivation that lead to approximately 100,000 sleep-related vehicle crashes each year and result in 1,500 deaths.
Why Nighttime Sleep is Important
Sleep is regulated by two brain processes. One is the restorative process when sleep occurs naturally in response to how long we are awake; the longer we are awake, the stronger is the drive to sleep. The second process controls the timing of sleep and wakefulness during the day-night cycle. Timing is regulated by the circadian biological clock that is located in our brain. This part of the brain, the SCN or suprachiasmatic nucleus, is influenced by light so that we naturally tend to get sleepy at night when it is dark and are active during the day when it is light. In addition to timing the sleep-wake cycle, the circadian clock regulates day-night cycles of most body functions, ensuring that the appropriate levels occur at night when you are sleeping. For example, important hormones are secreted, blood pressure is lowered and kidney functions change. Research even indicates that memory is consolidated during sleep. This "clock" in the brain runs on a 24-hour cycle with the result that we feel most sleepy around 2:00-4:00 am and in the afternoon between 1:00-3:00 pm. We need to have continuous sleep that becomes restorative and results in feeling refreshed and alert for the day ahead.
Quality of Sleep – Poor Sleep has Consequences
Quality sleep also means that it is continuous and uninterrupted. As we get older, sleep can be disrupted due to pain or discomfort, the need to go to the bathroom, medical problems, medications, and sleep disorders as well as poor or irregular sleep schedules. Establishing a regular bed and wake schedule and achieving continuous sleep helps you sleep in accordance with your internal biological circadian clock and experience all of the sleep stages necessary to reap the restorative, energizing and revitalizing benefits of sleep.
TIPS FOR GOOD SLEEP
Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) and nicotine (cigarettes, tobacco products) close to bedtime.
Avoid alcohol as it can lead to disrupted sleep.
Exercise regularly, but complete your workout at least 3 hours before bedtime.
Establish a regular relaxing, not alerting, bedtime routine (e.g. taking a bath or relaxing in a hot tub).
Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet and preferably cool and comfortable.