All right, no falling asleep now. No nodding off either. This is a very important column and you really should read every word very carefully. Who is that snoring out there? It better not be you or you will miss out on some very valuable information about—you guessed it—sleep.
Last month I shared a couple of lifestyle tips, and interestingly enough, I had several email questions about the little piece I shared dealing with sleep as a health issue. I will expand on that since there is interest, and also since there is a variety of new research about the benefits and drawbacks of sleep. Yes, believe it or not, there are actually as many drawbacks and health issues surrounding the concept of too much sleep, as there is about too little.
It has been determined and backed by extensive research that between seven and eight hours of sleep is the right amount, but there is a catch. The catch is it should be the right kind of sleep. It does not mean that you should just be in bed for that amount of time, but that you should actually be in a pretty deep state of rest. Your body and brain regenerates when you are comfortably asleep. If you are wakeful, or if you get up more than once to go to the bathroom or drink water and have difficulty going back to restful sleep, you are not getting the full benefit of your hours in bed.
There is also the issue of pain. If you are in pain, obviously you will be wakeful or sleeping fitfully at best. Often certain movements will trigger pain that may wake you up. For example, you may have a sore spot or a cramp in a certain position. You may also have an arthritic condition that causes you wakeful pain when you turn in a certain way. This interrupted sleep is not as healthful, of course, as a deep restful sleep.
There are products on the market that combine a light sleep aid with a painkiller that may help. Not as advice or anything, but I take an Excedrin PM on occasion when I have a sore back and it works for me. Check with your doctor if you think pain or discomfort may be a sleep interrupter for you.
Other benefits of that restful seven to eight hours may be an increase in the strength of your immune system. Also, getting enough sleep can be a mood elevator, as opposed to those who are sleep deprived, complaining of things as headaches, slow processing and an ever-present bad mood. Lack of sleep can be a contributor to depression and even your sex life may suffer.
The effects of sleep apnea can be devastating. If you have true sleep apnea you should see a doctor immediately. There are now many ways to treat this very serious condition. The CPAP breathing aid is pretty common, but there are also surgeries for the most serious cases that are successful. I have repeated many times that I am not a healthcare professional, but I know from personal experience there are many ways to help with most conditions causing sleeplessness.
Here are some very common ways that have helped me and I hope will help you too:
First, get a little pre-bed routine. Take a bath, sip a small cup of tea, rub/moisturize your feet, brush your hair, wash your face, it does not matter. Just have a little routine that ends with you in bed. Be sure you are in a dark room and that it is quiet. Try not to watch TV or work on your computer just before bed time. Read a little (a real book—no electronics) if it helps. Try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. Even if you stay up too late, you should get up at the same time and not sleep in to make up for the lost hours. Finally, be sure your mattress is comfortable and also check out your pillow. The wrong pillow can cause you to wake up with a stiff neck and a sore back!
So, all about the right amount of sleep and what happens if you do not get enough, but what about if you are getting too much? There is such a thing as too much sleep. Beyond nine hours is considered too much. You can see there is a fine line. Recent studies show people who sleep more than nine hours per night have a much higher rate of obesity, which contributes to a plethora of health problems. Other issues associated with too much sleep are depression, sluggish metabolism, chronic fatigue and headache. Hmmm! Some of the same things that are associated with too little sleep are also associated with too much sleep! As I said, it is a fine line.
So, if this article has not put you to sleep yet, email me on other topics you might like to read about or just any comments you may have—that is as long as they are nice. I get my feelings hurt very easily! So, until next time, get some rest! Love, Judith
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