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Easiest Way to Get Healthier - Get More Sleep

With the calendar year approaching its end, we are reminded to reflect on the year gone while hoping to improve our future. It’s time to think about New Year’s resolutions. I want to suggest some simple lifestyle changes that you could consider in your list of resolutions, which could have a significant positive impact on your overall health and quality of life. When we talk about a healthy lifestyle, everyone generally focuses on nutrition and exercise, but there are other important pillars of lifestyle medicine that we should not overlook.

All my life, I have been proud of being able to function with less sleep while waking up very early every morning. In fact, I considered sleeping to be a waste of time and preferred to do something more important and meaningful instead. But now my understanding on the importance of sleep has changed completely. In my lifestyle medicine journey, I have learned that it is one of the most important times of the day, when your body and brain are busy restoring your health. Last year at the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Dr. Param Dedhia’s talk, “Clinical and Lifestyle Medicine Prescriptions for Healthy Sleep” changed my perspective on sleep completely. In addition, Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, the authors of the best-selling book “The Alzheimer’s Solution” explain in their book that sleep was designed especially for our brain. Seven to eight hours of sleep was better than any other cleanse you find to remove toxins, oxidative by-products, and amyloid, which is responsible for causing Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, a good night’s sleep can remove negative thoughts and memories.


What is Optimal sleep?

8-10 hours for teenagers, 7-9 hours for adults, and 7-8 hours for older adults.

It is okay to take naps during the day to reach the 7-9 hours goal, but it should be part of a daily routine, preferably less than 30 minutes in duration, and should not be too long or too close to bedtime.

Consequences of Poor Sleep:

1. Heart disease, stroke and early death.

2. Increased hunger--“A sleepy brain is a craving brain.”

3. Less growth hormones, less testosterone and less repair proteins.

4. ADD/ADHD symptoms: Inability to prioritize, poor attentiveness, clumsiness, overconfidence, working memory problems, inability to deal with complicated new problems, inability to judge impairment and risk-taking behavior.

5. Those who do not get regular sleep, have more amyloid plaques in their brains, which puts them at a greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

Consequences of Poor Sleep:

1. Heart disease, stroke and early death.

2. Increased hunger--“A sleepy brain is a craving brain.”

3. Less growth hormones, less testosterone and less repair proteins.

4. ADD/ADHD symptoms: Inability to prioritize, poor attentiveness, clumsiness, overconfidence, working memory problems, inability to deal with complicated new problems, inability to judge impairment and risk-taking behavior.

5. Those who do not get regular sleep, have more amyloid plaques in their brains, which puts them at a greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s.


Benefits of Restorative Sleep:

1. Energy: Replete energy store.

2. Joy: Connects us physically, mentally and emotionally.

3. Brain health: Enhances neuro-plasticity.

4. Heart Health: Actively cardioprotective.

5. Anti-inflammatory: Reduces inflammatory markers.

6. Overall Health: People who sleep better spend less on healthcare.

7. Mood: Quality sleep results in a better mood, insight, social engagement and overall quality of life.

8. Focus and Attention: Insufficient sleep affects the way we perceive and process information.

9. Learning: Better short-term and long-term memory, processing speed, recall, driving skills and athletic skills.

10. Alcohol and Drug Abuse: Those who sleep better are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.

11. Weight Regulation: Sleep deprivation causes cravings for high-fat foods and sweets.

12. Headaches: People who sleep better experience fewer migraines and tension headaches.

13. Diabetes: People who don’t sleep enough are more likely to develop type-2 diabetes.

14. Stroke: Lack of quality sleep increases the risk of stroke.

15. Libido: People who get more sleep have a better libido and increased testosterone levels.

16. Brain Atrophy: People who consistently fail to get enough sleep show brain shrinkage.


Myths about Sleep:

1. ‘As you get older, you sleep less’: The elderly people need as much sleep as other adults.

2. ‘I can sleep less during the week and make up for it over the weekends’: It does not have the same benefit as getting quality sleep all week long.

3. ‘Skipping an hour or two of sleep will not hurt me’: Skipping sleep affects memory and mood.


Sleep Deprivation Accumulates:

It has been proven that when someone sleeps only four hours each night for two weeks, that individual makes the same level of mistakes as someone who has not slept for two consecutive days.

The CDC describes it aptly on their website: “Drowsy Driving Is Similar to Drunk Driving”

· Being awake for at least 18 hours is the same as someone having a blood content (BAC) of 0.05%.

· Being awake for at least 24 hours is equal to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. This is higher than the legal limit (0.08% BAC) in all states.

Additionally, drowsiness increases the effect of even low amounts of alcohol.

With so many traffic accidents and traffic related deaths in our local community, it is imperative that the employers take this information seriously.


Tips for Better Sleep:

Good sleep habits, sometimes referred to as “sleep hygiene”, can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Some habits that can improve your sleep health:

· Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends

· Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature

· Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom

· Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime

· Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.

I hope you will give this simple suggestion serious consideration and be intentional about getting more restorative sleep every night to improve your overall health.


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