The gist of the story: People who sleep more are less likely to get colds. But, according to my research, colds are just the tip of the iceberg. A study released last week out of the Washington University School of Medicine found that mice who slept less had more Alzheimer’s brain plaques that appeared earlier. The researchers are considering a study that will gauge whether young and middle-aged people who get less sleep are more likely to get Alzheimer’s.
Another study that came out mid-month explored a link between sleep and memory. Sleep, it seems, helps our brains commit things to long-term memory. Yet another September study out of the University of Montreal found that those who suffer from insomnia have higher nighttime blood pressure, which may lead to heart problems. The list goes on and on. As someone who has struggle to sleep all my life — it’s only within the last five or so years that I can actually lie down and go right to sleep — these studies are upsetting. I hereby make a vow that I am going to try and sleep more. (Unless I have an assignment due the next day, or a call scheduled with a source overseas.) I will get more shut-eye by employing the following strategies:
- Less Facebook Time. Actually, less computer time. Televisions, PCs, bright reading lights — all these things mimic the bright light associated with the sunrise. Our body’s circadian rhythm is thrown off, and we’re not tired. I find myself very awake, actually, after spending time in front of my large monitor. I’m going to try and do that less often.
- Less chocolate. I am super-sensitive to caffeine, so of course I avoid all coffee and tea after 3 p.m. But I’m not as stringent with my chocolate avoidance. Since chocolate can have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, I’m making a big mistake.
- Less food. I am a night snacker. I don’t eat much during the day, but something about the evening makes me hungry. And yet when my belly feels full, I just can’t sleep.
- More meditation. A few weeks ago I attended a four-week meditation class at The Little Yoga House. It was incredible. I came away from the experience, which ended every Monday night at 10 p.m., feeling like I could run a marathon. Then I got into bed and slept like a baby. Seriously. I did some research and — you guessed it — scientists say that meditation may help those suffering from insomnia.
- Less couch time. Once the kids are in bed my husband and I love watching TV together. About half the time I fall asleep while watching whatever we’ve TiVoed. But those mini naps aren’t good. Ever seen a tired baby fall asleep in the car? Once she gets that little snooze, there’s no way you’re getting her back down for her regular nap. The same applies to adults. Unless we’re bone tired, we’re going to be up for a few minutes. So from now on I’ll be moving to the bed if I feel tired.
Do you get enough sleep? What’s stopping you if you’re not? I’d love to hear your thoughts.