The Value in The Z’s

ZZZIt shouldn’t come as a shock to hear that we need sleep to function properly throughout the day, just like we need proper nutrition and exercise.  What most people don’t realize is how much sleep we in fact need, and what the consequences to not getting enough z’s on a daily basis can mean to our overall health.

Over the past couple of decades, numerous studies have been conducted, producing varying results and a whole lot of different conclusions, but one thing always seems to be consistent….  not getting enough sleep can actually make you sick.  It’s recommended that adults sleep for at least 7 hours a night to give the body rest needed for a full next day of energy.  There’s a myth floating around out there saying that we can actually train ourselves to function on less than 6 hours of sleep, but I promise you that it would eventually catch up to you.

Most of us have the perception that when we go to sleep, our minds just shut down and our body gets the rest it needs, but there is so much more happening.  While we’re sleeping, our brains are working hard on creating new pathways for learning, getting new insights, and creating new memories.  When you don’t get enough sleep, it’s difficult to focus, pay attention, and even react / respond quickly.  Next, it might not come as a surprise, but lack of sleep can even cause significant mood-swings, irritability, depression, and of course, fatigue.

Over the course of these numerous studies, a number of ailments have been linked to sleep-deprivation.  Without an acceptable amount of sleep, our bodies are more prone to major issues such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  On top of all of that, those who are sleep-deprived are even more susceptible to getting infections and then in turn have a more difficult time fighting them off.

Cause and Effect

There are probably hundreds of reasons why a lot of us don’t get the amount of sleep that is recommended.  Let’s just touch on a few of the major players in the game:

–  Do you have a TV in your bedroom?  Things like computers and televisions stimulate our minds.  When we need to rest, but are distracted by the news, a TV series, or our friends’ new posts on Facebook, we don’t allow our minds to rest.

–  What are you eating?  First, going to bed hungry is not the best idea.  It is known to be a cause of insomnia.  Our minds need nutrients (let’s call it brain food) just like our bodies do.  Be careful that you don’t overeat though.  Eating too much can prevent sleep too.  Second, eating foods with a lot of sugar can keep your body stimulated, not allowing it to rest when you want it to, and taking in too much caffeine from things like coffee and tea can keep your mind going a mile a minute when all you want is to close your eyes and sleep.

–  Are you stressed out?  Things like stress and anxiety are like vicious cycles when it comes to sleep.  Being stressed can prevent you from getting to sleep, and not getting enough sleep can make you more stressed out or anxious.  A couple hours before going to bed, look back at the day in a positive way.  Don’t focus on the tasks of tomorrow.  Let your mind “wind down”, whether through a form of meditation or by reading a relaxing book.

–  How’s your posture?  Studies have shown that the same cause of your headache or neck discomfort may be responsible for your inability to sleep. Neck tension is known to cause a variety of issues like headaches, neck pain, tingling, and insomnia.  While focusing on proper posture can help this, having us evaluate you might be in your better interest.

The list of many reasons goes on, of course.  If you’re having trouble sleeping and you frustratingly cannot figure out why, come in and talk to us.  There are numerous nutritional and lifestyle contributors to getting your needed beauty sleep these days, and we would be happy to help.

Dr. Tom Rofrano

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