Pak H Chau
Sleep Well, Think Well
Today’s culture has no off switch. Thanks to technology, we are perpetually “on.” And the underlying fear of missing out is just too real. Oftentimes we overcommit ourselves which is why we are unable to get the proper amount of sleep.
Often taken for granted but really needs more attention especially in this digital age - sleep, especially high-quality sleep, leads to optimum health and productivity.
The One Thing That You Should Do to Sleep Better
There are several tips available on how you can set yourself up to sleep better, but really, there is only this one thing that you need to do.
The role of light is very important in setting your circadian rhythm (also known as biological or body clock). Ideally, your sleep schedule should be in sync with Mother Nature such that when the sun rises, you should be awake as well.
Make the most out of morning or daylight – but when night comes, minimise light exposure (from all sources!) before going to bed.
Also make sure to have a light dinner before sunset or no later than 2 hours before going to bed.
And as you close your eyes, rather than thinking of the things you need to accomplish the next day (as this will just make it hard for you to sleep), think of how your day has unfolded and be thankful for it. Not everybody has the chance to live this day like you do so be grateful. Counting your blessings will surely make you have a more restful sleep. Be grateful even for the smallest of things because they do matter. In fact, they are often the most important things.
Doing this will improve the quality of your sleep and positively impacts not just your physical health but your mental health as well.
The Costs of Insufficient Sleep
Insufficient sleep leads to poor cardiovascular health. Research has shown that sleeping for less than 6 hours per night could increase a person's risk of atherosclerosis — a condition in which plaque builds up inside the arteries — by as much as 27%.* This increases a person's risk of experiencing a heart attack.
While you sleep, your blood pressure goes down, giving your heart and blood vessels a bit of a rest. The less sleep you get, the longer your blood pressure stays up during a 24-hour cycle. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, including stroke.
Same operating principle for blood sugar. During deep sleep, the amount of glucose in your blood drops. Not enough time in this stage means the level is hoisted up while insulin sensitivity is low and this could lead to diabetes.
When you’re well-rested, you’re less hungry. The opposite is also true and this is why lack of sleep leads to weight gain because you tend to eat more when you’re feeling tired or restless. Lack of sleep also weakens the immune system thereby increasing the levels of inflammation in the body. Chronic sleep deprivation also allows for the early onset of Alzheimer’s and other dementia.
All of these could lead to early mortality – a dire consequence of not getting enough sleep.
How Many Hours Should You Sleep Then?
You might be saying that you can get by with 6 or even less hours of sleep but that doesn’t mean it is the amount of sleep your body needs.
Proper rest sets you up for your best performance and this is why the National Sleep Foundation has released a table which itemizes the amount of sleep one should be getting depending on age.
Source: National Sleep Foundation
The Benefits of Sleep
On the other side of the coin, what are the benefits of sleeping good and long?
It’s all about balance.
Sleep is when muscle is repaired.
Sleep is when memories are consolidated and learning takes place.
Ever wondered why, in making a major decision, it is better to sleep on it first? Because sleep is important in clearing out waste from the brain, and we make better decisions after a good night’s rest. “Study shows that the brain has different functional states when asleep and when awake,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Center for Translational Neuromedicine. “In fact, the restorative nature of sleep appears to be the result of the active clearance of the by-products of neural activity that accumulate during wakefulness.” ***
Sleep enables us to have a more positive outlook in life thereby making us more resilient amidst all the stress that life brings.
Perhaps the most important benefit of sleeping well is improved relationships. Why? Because you can empathize more and relate better when you are well-rested. You are calm, able to manage your emotions, and control your reactions. Simply put, you become less moody which makes you more likeable.
What we once thought of as a passive activity is actually “a highly active process," says Rebecca Robbins, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health. "It's crucial, actually, in restoring the body and is in fact the most efficient, effective way to do so."
Considering that sleep enables us to be more creative and productive, this activity, which amounts to one-third of our lives, is accountable for how successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be.