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I was just browsing the New York Times online and came across a recent Really? column about sleep. (BTW: My story about neti pots pre-dated the one on the NYT’s Web site by three days. Sigh.)

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.

4 Responses to “Sleep More, You’ll Like It (And so will your body)”

  1. Vicki Berry says:

    This is great! I have been thinking of doing a post on sleep for quite a while now, knowing the importance of it to our health. And, being someone who also has had sleep issues most of my life as well. I’ve always paid attention to things that can help. I do know that I have to get away from the computer well before bedtime (I have actually had dreams of Twittering the night away!). But I didn’t realize the chocolate had that much caffeine in it! I am sensitive to caffiene as well. So I just ate my 2nd piece of dark chocolate for the day (I have a couple of Ghirardelli dark squares / day!). I’ll have to be limiting that further (I gave up coffee years back except for a rare occasion if early enough in the morning).

    Thanks for a great post! I will probably link to this from mine when I finally get around to writing it!

  2. Jennifer says:

    I love your tip on meditation. I’ve been contemplating adding this to my routine… I think it will do me the world of good!

  3. Brandon says:

    It’s very crucial to get the right amount of sleep for optimal health. You could be eating the correct foods, have a terrific exercise program, but without proper rest and rejuvenation, you just will not be healthy.

    Sleep facilitates healing processes within the body, and helps repair damage by releasing human-growth hormone from the pituitary gland. You need around 7-8 hours of deep, undisturbed sleep to get the full benefits from this natural bodily mechanism.

    Also, it is important that your last meal of the day be a few hours before bed, as a snack right before sleep can inhibit it, by causing your blood sugar to spike, and then drop down very low, which will wake you wake up more often in the night.

    Circadian rhythms will also be unbalanced and become completely thrown off by inadequate sleep, so it is important to always sleep in a room where you will be undisturbed.

    Sleep serves as a purpose to help heal the mind and the body, while also helping your subconscious mind sort through the happenings of the day. You will also go through psychological situations during the night (dreams) that will help you better understand your true self and your experiences.

    Very good post!

  4. Kristen says:

    i havent been able to sleep well since i had my son….i had severe PPD and i cant get the sleepin issues on track..plus karen u know that i have my disase to deal with which wakes me up ALL nite…
    i do yoga which sometimes help….i listen to mediatation b4 bed…..it really works better when my husband sleeps in the spare room….LOL…but that doesnt work all too often…and caffeine is NOT an option for me ….
    great post…xxoo

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