March 24, 2011

Sleep Deprivation Sucks!

I'm running on about 2-3 hours sleep as I type this. I blame my cat for this one. He had a bad case of separation anxiety and was on me like a kid on a Smartie.  Did you know that one full night of sleep deprivation is equal to the same effects of having an elevated blood alcohol level. Try driving when you are sleep deprived and you may as well be drunk. Kinda scary to think about it that way when, only last week, I read that sleep deprivation is now being noted as a "global epidemic"...not just North American.

Someone's going to wake up with
a sore back........
More importantly, and something I have blogged about before, sleep is the number one health behaviour as it influences both physical activity and nutrition. Funny is only starting to get some media attention. I don't hear a lot of trainers (i.e. the Biggest Loser "personal trainers") talking about it. I don't hear the latest research on sleep and health on the news at night (as I do, daily, when it relates to obesity and all the terrible things being fat can do to you - please read in a sarcastic tone that suggests it is a bunch of bunk). Is it because the subject matter isn't that sexy? Perhaps it is because you don't look younger or thinner. However, a good night sleep does help reduce the look of fine lines and dark circles. Chronic sleep deprivation ages us and makes us look years older and research is pointing to the link between sleep deprivation and obesity/overweight.

Sleep docs have defined a "good night's sleep" as 7-8 hours of uninterrupted (deep) sleep. Not a sleep that is broken up by a midnight pee or a bump in the night...but one that is continuous for 7 hours. Can you imagine? So how does one work towards healthy sleeping?  The following is a quick (albeit superficial) list of considerations for preparing for a good night. Keep in mind, this list doesn't take into account hormonal shifts that we women have the priveledge of experiencing (again, read in sarcastic - and bitter - tone).

That's gonna leave a mark!
1. Turn off the TV / Computer 30 - 45 minutes before bed. Your brain doesn't turn off as well as the screen and may take a while to slow down. In fact, rid your bedroom of any screens and use it only for sleep and know....(wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no the words of Monty Python).

2. Eat a small carbohydrate snack 60 minutes before bed. Carbs can influence sleep whereas protein may wake you up. A small bowl of cereal is a good option....don't believe the myth that eating after 8pm makes you ain't true.

3. Be sure your bed / pillow provide the right amount of support, your room is cool and dark, and if you sleep with a chronic snorer...invest in a comfortable pair of earplugs. It is the best investment you can make for yourself.

4. If you can't stop tossing and turning try progressive muscle relaxation. I swear, by the time you get to your waist, you will be out like a light. Starting with your toes, imagine they are relaxed and letting go of any tension they may carry with ever exhalation.  Move up to your legs, your hips, your back, shoulders....etc. Focus on deep breathing and letting go of tension. It works!

He's so cute, I'd leave him there too (as
my laptop sucked up all the hair and
dander only to explode of overheating
days later).....but it's worth it!
5. Some people benefit by having a bath or a stretch before bed. Others find a routine of physical activity really helps put them out.

6. Be aware of how much caffeine you have during your day. It could be that you are eating and drinking more than you need and it could be the culprit keeping you up at night.

7. Finally, and the hardest one for me, if your dog or cat is keeping you up by jumping on the bed or standing on your chest meowing at you until you acknowledge him, the best thing you can do is show them the door. However, if you are like me, that is easier said than done. I'm a sucker for a fuzzy face.

One thing is for sure, we cannot underestimate the power of a good night's sleep. It helps to absorb our nutrients better, it may help to reduce fat, it helps to mend our muscles after exercise, it puts us is a better mood, it helps to reduce our risk of injury, and it is a great way to manage stress.

Who's the cutest little kitten ever!
Do yourself a favor....go to bed at a decent time and give yourself 8 hours for the health of it. Your body, mind, family, and friends will thank you!

That's about it.

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