Summer is a great time to get up early and enjoy the great weather (and cooler temps if you live in the desert like me). But it’s also a great time of year for camping in the high-country or bonfires on the beach. Either way we look at it, longer days means shorter nights, which means we might not be getting the right amount of sleep. Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to find out:
- Wake up tired in the morning?
- Need a nap in the afternoon?
- Fall asleep watching TV?
- Have frequent small accidents at home, or large ones on the road?
- Have trouble focusing on the job?
- Have trouble find figuring out correct change from a purchase?
- Find yourself sleepy after lunch?
- Feel irritable or depressed most of the time?
- Feel like you’re not getting anything done?
- Drink alcohol to get to sleep?
- Drink several cups of coffee or energy drinks to stay awake?
- Have difficulty falling asleep?
- Have difficulty staying asleep?
A yes answer to any of these questions is a sign that you aren’t getting enough of the right kind of sleep to help you sustain a healthy lifestyle.
What is the right amount of sleep?
As with anything, exact numbers are going to vary from person to person, but what we do know is that women, on average, perform better when they get six to seven hours of sleep and men, when they get seven to eight hours. It’s critical that those hours of sleep include rotations through multiple cycles of REM and non-REM stages…no, I’m not talking about the amazingly awesome 80s band featuring…I’m talking about those deep, restful moments when your brain is processing things and getting you excited for the next day.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, there are are multiple side affects.
- Sleep and Weight Gain: Lack of sleep messing with your ability to know that you’re full. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body secretes and excess amount of a hormone that increases your appetite, gherlin, and less amounts of the hormone that tells you when you’re full, leptin. Basically, you could be completely satiated and not know it.
- Sleep and Immunity: When you sleep, that is the time for all systems to recharge, reboot, and recuperate for the next day. If you aren’t providing your immune system with adequate time to repair itself, you could be leaving yourself at high risk for viral infections.
- Sleep, Inflammation, and Your Heart: Lack of sleep can raise your blood levels of inflammatory activators including CRP (C-reactive protein), a substance that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to heart disease, this constant inflammation can lead to cancer, premature aging, and other negative consequesnces. Evidence is also building that connects sleep deprivation to a nightly rise in blood pressure that lasts through the day and raises risk for hear attach and stroke.
- Other Sleep-Related Health Issues: Anything less than seven hours and you could suffer from anxiety, moodiness, depression, and are more likely to overindulge in alcohol as lack of sleep accumulates (see, I knew my power naps in Vegas were important).
YOUR Sleep Patterns
Let’s take a little quick assessment to see how much sleep your getting and how good it is.
First grab a sheet of paper and answer the following questions:
- What time do you turn off the light to go to bed?_____
- How long does it take you to fall asleep?_____
- How often do you way up during the night?_____
- How long do you stay awake each time?______
- What time do you wake up in the morning?_____
To figure out how many hours of sleep you are actually getting:
- Calculate your sleep window (the amount of time between lights out and waking up):______
- Subtract the amount of time you spend in bed that you’re not actually sleeping (the time you spend falling asleep or lying awake in the night): _____
- The result is your actual sleep time: _____
Remember: Men should get 7-8 hours and women 6-7. How did you fair?
Next, we’re going to see how good it was for you in bed last night…as it pertains to sleeping…dirty bird!
Use Dr. A’s Sleep Log to help you record your answers to the following questions. Keep the log for at least a week to see where you need to improve your habits. Come up with unique codes for things like working out, caffeine, napping, and television to make it fun!
- What time did you get into bed last night?
- What time did you get out of bed in the morning?
- What hours did you actually sleep?
- Did you take a nap? For how long?
- Did you consume alcohol? How much, and at what time?
- Did you exercise? How long, and at what time?
- Did you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages? How much, and at what time? (see a pattern???)
- What hours did you watch television?
- Did you take any medications? At what time?
Once you have a baseline from the assessment and your sleep log, you can start identifying ways to reduce the things that are preventing you from getting the best sleep out there.