If you fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed and wake up without an alarm, you are probably getting the right amount of sleep. If you fall asleep immediately upon hitting the pillow and always need an alarm to wake up, you are probably sleep deprived. Whenever I come across the above scenario with a client or friend, I ask "how much sleep are you getting?" Most often, the response is a begrudging "ugh, well I can never fall asleep..." or "not as much as I should." You know you are lacking sleep, but do you know what it's costing you?
The Price of Losing Sleep and Counting Sheep
The more sheep you see, the more at risk you are for diabetes and heart problems. You are also at risk for drowsy driving. Short sleep duration is associated with a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased apetite caused by sleep deprivation. Sleep helps maintain a healthy immune system and balances our appetites by helping to regulate levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin. These "hunger hormones" contribute to feelings of hunger and fullness. Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite.When we’re sleep deprived, leptin levels decrease and ghrelin levels increase! We may feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain. In this instance, we typically crave sugary and more fattening foods.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
There is no magic number. Sleep needs vary depending on your age and activity level. The following guidelines are from webmd.com.
- Infants require about 14-15 hours a day.
- Teenagers need about 8.5-9.5 hours on average.
- Most adults need 7 to 9 hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day.
What Can I Do to Improve My Sleep?
- Avoid bright lights. This includes reducing the use of your laptop, television, and phone.
Don't let this be you!
- Consider sleeping with an eyemask and earplugs. I have used both for nearly a year and appreciate the benefits. I fall asleep much more quickly. According to the upband by Jawbone, while wearing the mask and earplugs, my sleep was also much deeper. The more deep sleep you have, the more efficiently your body can produce melatonin. Melatonin has also been shown to slow down the aging process (huffingtonpost.com). If a mask and earbuds sound too extreme (I admit, I'm a fitness-experiment-nerd), consider using white noise.
|I love my sleep mask!|
- Years ago I babysat for a girl who had a white noise machine. Recently, the sounds outside my bedroom window were louder than usual and it crossed my mind that I need to get one of those machines! Then I realized "hey I bet there's an app for that!" Sure enough. I have downloaded an app called White Noise, which has sounds varying from white noise (surprise, surprise) to pink noise to light rain with birds and even sounds replicating a clothes dryer.
- Take a bath. The act of cooling the body, like that which happens when you get out of a warm tub, makes us feel tired. Another option is having a cup of non-caffeinated green tea. The tea can trigger that same cooling response in the body.
- Avoid caffeine and late night workouts. Caffeine and workouts will increase your blood pressure and heart rate, causing you to feel restless and unable to calm down enough to fall asleep. Try to keep activity and caffeine to a minimum during the last few hours before bed.
- Keep the room temperature between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If the room becomes uncomfortably hot or cold, you are more likely to wake up, or have trouble falling asleep (webmd.com).