Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Night’s Sleep

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I don't know about you guys, but over the past several weeks, I haven't had too many restful slumbers. Between concerns over the current state of affairs, the economic situation, dealing with some overtraining issues, and just trying to cram all that I can in a 24 hour time frame, sleep is the one area in my life that I have come up a little short on.

I have always been one to need good, quality sleep to function. In fact I wonder how I ever made it through college, my young adult years, and yes, even parenthood on so little shut eye. But the older I get the more I appreciate a good restful night’s sleep.

So why is sleep so instrumental in our lives? Well, sleep is what allows us to handle our emotions better, helps aid in our thought process, improves our immune system, and even allows our bodies to recover and prepare for the next day’s task. Sleep deprivation has been shown to lead to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, irritability and slow reaction time. And it has been reported that going without sleep for weeks on end can even be fatal.

Some studies even suggest that when we short change our shut eye time this can play havoc on our weight. When we are sleep deprived the body raises the hormone, ghrelin which is responsible for stimulating our appetite, while suppressing the hormone leptin which is responsible for keeping our appetite under control. Therefore, we may find ourselves eating more when we sleep less because of this scenario.

How much sleep one needs varies from person to person. That being said, studies have shown that those people who get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night diminish their risk of developing health issues.

So how do we get a good night’s sleep?

Below are a few suggestions to get that quality sleep

  • Try keeping your sleep time routine constant throughout the week, including weekends. Sleeping in on the weekends can disturb your body’s natural circadian rhythm therefore throwing off your sleep schedule for a few days.

  • Prepare yourself mentally and physically for sleep. This may be taking a warm bath, reading, meditating, and even listening to some calming music.

  • Try drinking some warm milk or eating a high carbohydrate snack before bedtime. Milk contains trytophan which has been known to have a calming effect.

  • Prepare your room for sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark, keep it cool but not so cold that you cannot keep warm, and if you must, move your clock. (Becoming a clock watcher can only lead to more aggravation and tension).

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, some cold medications, and exercise, within 3 hours of bedtime. All of these can lead to problems getting to sleep and/or allowing you to sleep through the night.

  • If you find difficulty falling asleep, the best thing is to get out of bed, find something to do until you feel drowsy. Staying in bed may only make you more anxious.

  • Print out the following calendar on ways to get a healthy and sound sleep.

  • If you have tried all measures and still find it difficult getting in quality sleep, do not be afraid to talk with your health care provider about this issue. Getting a good night’s sleep not only allows us to function in our daily lives; it allows our bodies to adapt to all the daily stresses we place on it.

    Do you feel you get an adequate amount of sleep? What do you do when you can’t sleep? Have you found yourself having greater difficulties sleeping because of our current state of affairs?

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First thing for some of the people that wrote.
1.Go to your doctor with your concerns and complaints.
I have to take 1-2 sleeping pills a night 30 minute before sleep. It helps you get tired within the 30 minute period. If it doesn't happen that quick don't give up.
2. eat dinner within the hour you get home. You can pre make dinner when you are making dinner for that night. Then you are 1 day ahead. Then come home and heat up and eat with your family.
3. Make sure you clock is set 10-15 minutes before you need to wake up. I agree don't have the clock staring you down. I put a tank top in front of the face of the clock. If you are going to bed you don't need to look at the clock for the night.
4. I agree with not working out so close to bed. 1-2 hours before bed should be calming and getting you ready for your night sleep.
5. If you do wake up in the middle of the morning, a small glass of milk is good. Sometime luke warm might be good.
6. I think being on your computer close to bed time or watching tv until you get tired is not working. It is still keep you busy and stimulating you.
If you have a timer on your tv maybe set it before you get into another show. Sometimes we say just one more show because it might be good.
Well you will lose out on your sleep doing this.
7. Read books on how to do more things with your time. De clutter your home 1 room at a time. Get boxes to get you motivated. Listen to music and go for it. If you haven't used it in several months or don't think you will ever use it. Get rid of it.
You not only free up your house and make it simple and de cluttered. You have more time to do other things.
Plus you can lose weight while you do these things. Have your partner and kids get in on the clean up. Then the kids will learn also how to keep what they really want and need. Or if there school supplies have been used year after year. So on.
Donate, have a yard sale, give to friends that have younger kids, hand me downs are great!
This way you have more time with family and friends and day trips and outings.
8. I would not take naps unless you are sick or have a heavy duty job that requires some good rest to get you on your feet again.
9. Moms with children. See if a friend could come over and you can get house work done or say I just need a shower or a nap. Can you help me out? You could work something out with your partner to work out the daily duties also.

I hope everyone finds a good way to get more sleep.. Report
I usually notice 6 hours is where I wake up regardless. Unfortunately the smallest thing wakes up me, so I'm usually up 3 or 4 times every night. I try to eat really well and exercise a lot to help me sleep better. Report
I found out not only the coffee I drank 3 hours before I went to sleep mattered. Since I stopped smoking I drink a lot less coffee, one or two cups a day. Sleeping a lot sooner now! Report
What does this woman being naked have to do with the article itself? Report
I read a nice book for 15 minutes before I sleep then I fall asleep easily, if I still have trouble sleeping I get a clean sheet of paper and draw whatever comes into mind or I listen to meditation sounds. Report
I've found that when I journal my days events, even if it's just a couple of sentences; I don't spend time in bed thinking about what happened during the day. Report
i definitely don't get enough sleep. my problem is that no matter what time i go to bed, i wake up early - really realy. once i do wake up i can't fall back asleep. i usually go to bed around 11 or 12 and i'm up by 5.

i've been working on. i think the calendar will be a useful tool. Report
I get appx. 8 hrs. of sleep in a 24 hr. period of time, but not all at once--I know I need this for my health, but have been having a difficult time in achieving this goal of mine. I am so happy this article has been written and I am going to print the calendar immediately!! Thank you so much for helping those of us who need to add this important factor to our lives!! The dr. is always telling me that my body would do more healing if I would get the sleep all at once that it needs to work it's "magic" that is meant to happen!! It just doesn't seem to work for me, but I will try the suggestions and hopefully, I will be back to when I was once able to get this consistent sleep. Vicki Report
I am a firm believer in getting a good night's sleep!!! I know for me especially when starting an exercise program and getting my eating habits in line, I need to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. If not, when my alarm goes off, I roll over and continuously hit the snooze button until I have to rush to take a shower, grab something to eat and run out the door to get to work on time. A few of my favorite things to do to get to sleep are:
- Listening to Beethoven's "Midnight Sonata"
- Listening to one of my meditative podcasts on my iPod
- Drinking a cup of calming tea.
The best thing that I can suggest is finding out what works best for you and applying that to your sleep routine. Report
I frequently have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, myself. Recently I started using a soothing noise machine for a baby. I bought it for my niece, but ended up being greedy and keeping it for myself. It is awesome! I have noticed a definite improvement when using the machine. It will soothe me to sleep, and if I do wake up in the middle of the night, it is there for me to fall back asleep to. They are kinda pricey, but it is worth it. I got mine at a second hand baby store, so if you find one I would definielty recommend grabbing it. Good luck to you! Report
I've always been a heavy sleeper, until 4 years ago. Now my sleep pattern is sensative. Regardless of what I've read, I've found that if I read for about 30 minutes, in bed, it helps me sleep. Report
Work on the issue of your "monkey mind" and sleep will come to you, peace. Report
Just a little tip - I read somewhere that if you're a night owl (like me), the light from a TV or computer monitor will make you feel more awake. I've been trying to turn it off about an hour before I'm going to bed! Reading a few pages from a book helps me to relax and forget about the day. Report
I sleep pretty solid. I average 5 hours/night because I'm so busy. I'd do better if I got a little more but more sleep means I'd have to take time away from something else.

In the past I've always been a back and side sleeper. One night when my wife was watching TV I laid down on my stomach and burried my eyes in my pillow. I awoke much more rested and I did't toss and turn like I used to. I found that I sleep a lot better on my stomach. I never had a sleep study but I think that I probably have some sleep apnea myself and sleeping on my tummy keeps the airway open.

I never thought that coffee affected my sleep because I never had trouble falling asleep even when I drank lots. When I cut way back on coffee I noticed that I awoke feeling a lot more rested even on the same amount of sleep.

When I was in college some busy semesters I got by on 3 hours/night plus sleeping in on weekends. I sure couldn't do that any more! Report
I don't know about anyone else in here but I have sleep apnea and will go 1-2 minutes without breathing I don't wake up per se but I am restless. I have gotten a CPAP machine through my doctor and I am getting great sleep and all. I have gotten this part of my life back and am sleeping great! I highly recommend anyone with sleep problems to get a sleep test and find out if you too have sleep apnea, trust me it is worth it. ---dallastkb Report
After reading the comment from GETTO140 I need to share that I also have a snoring husband. It took me 40 years before I decided to use earplugs at night. Such a simple solution. I wasn't ready to have separate rooms. Now we on our 45th year of marriage and I can sleep! Report
i have a lot of trouble sleeping not just because of the economy but because my husband left me a couple of months ago with a new baby, etc. i am having trouble reestablishing my routines that lead to good sleep. and i am suffering from all the symptoms you mention and on the rare occaisions i do sleep well i find it easier to eat properly. and i have noticed that sometimes when i stay up late i get the 'munchies' but if i don't eat and just go to bed i'm not really hungry. Report
I rarely have a problem with sleeping. My ex used to say I was the only person who could fall asleep before my head hit the pillow. Menopause has caused some wakefulness at times, but I have found that I need to turn off the TV and the computer at least an hour before I go to bed or my brain does not shut down for sleep. Perhaps that can help some people. I also take my calcium and magnesium supplement before bed time and have no problem with restless legs.
My best sleep hours are from 11 PM to 8 AM but unfortunately those hours don't work with my work schedule. I sure feel better when I can sleep 8-9 hours though! Report
I'm a VERY early riser (like 3:30 am some mornings). Fortunately, I can go to sleep between 9:30 and 10 every evening. But, I'd really like to be able to stay asleep some night until my alarm clock goes off (especially on the weekend!) Report
I feel so awful when I dont sleep and the older I get the more less sleep I get too! I want to sleep and does anyone know of a calender that I can use for the rest of the 2008 year and the new 2009 year that I can follow? Report
I have always been able to sleep! I sleep 8-9 hours every night! I can fall asleep on command and wake up on command! I need no pills or alarm clocks...I just can sleep! My boyfriend teases me if I sit still for a few minutes, no matter what is going on, I fall asleep. I do and sometimes it irriates me. I've looked on the internet to see if falling asleep so easily was a pre-curser to something adverse but so far really haven't found anything. Maybe it is a blessing and I can't see it! :)
I walk 3 miles on all week days and bicycle 100 miles per week. I've always been active as an adult.
Oh I age they tell me that I will begin to not sleep as well...until then...sleep on! :) Report
I've NEVER been able to sleep well, not even as a kid. Report
Before I began exercising and losing weight, I slept an average of 4 hours a night. falling asleep for 20 minutes, waking up for 20, falling asleep for 30 minutes, waking up for an hour...That went on for several years after my husband passed away. Once I started exercising, I found myself sleeping longer between wakings, and as the weight dropped, and I exercised more, the earlier I needed to go to bed, and the longer I slept in the mornings.
I still have nights where I don't sleep well, but they are offset now by nights where I get a full 8-9 hours sleep. AND when I don't exercise regularly, my sleep patterns start to fall apart again! Report
This is going to sound really silly... but every night just before I go to bed, I put lotion on my feet and massage them for a few moments. I SWEAR that helps me to sleep better! Report
Even without an alarm, I wake up like a shot 6 hours after falling asleep. (found that out yesterday when I 'could have' slept in, for a change!!!)
My problem is my husband wakes me up ---- so I can get him his breakfast! I know he's capable, and maybe I SHOULD tell him to get his own, but he will NOT portion etc and is T2 diabetic. Yeah, I guess I'm his 'Mommy' on this one.
I work 7 days a week, and the once or twice that I would get to sleep in usually falls on a normal persons 'work day'.
So, 6 hours I'm stuck at! Report
I read, solve Sudoku, crossword puzzles or post on SP when I cannot fall asleep. Sometimes I will put on the TV as trying to keep my eyes open will just make me fall asleep. Report
I don't get enough sleep and I appreciate these suggestions. Report
I love to sleep but now going thru menopause and recovering from this injury, I have not had a good nites sleep since July. I'm worring too much to about not working and not having my own place. Report
We have our bedroom fixed so no light can get it - my husband works 2nd shift and we don't usually turn out the lights until 2 - 3am. Our daughter works 3rd shift so I usually wake when she comes in.
This was a good article. In the winter I love a cup of hot chocolate before bed. My husband and I take a midnight walk with our dogs to wear all of us out LOL. I also find reading and praying help calm me for sleep. Report
I have to take two pm pain pills. I am 63 over do on exericse pain is a major problem. So theses help me sleep and the pain eventually goes away so I can sleep. Report
I love to sleep. I wish I could sleep more hours per day, but my body wakes up after 8 hours go figure. Report
I find that I sleep too much. I can sleep for 12 hours undisturbed. This is really worrying. I feel like Im sleeping my life away Report
I stay up too late at night because it's the only time I get any peace and quiet, and I can actually get some things done after the kids are in bed. So it's my own fault, but I often don't get more than 6 hours of sleep at night, and it's broken sleep at that, because my son still nurses frequently.

I can get by on 6 hours, but I don't function well. 8 - 9 hours seems to work best for me. One of my Spark goals is to get 8 hours of sleep a night. I've been working on that and have noticed that when I do - I feel so much better. I have more energy and can think more clearly. Report
I function fairly well with 6-7 hours of sleep but the older I get the more I enjoy my 8+ hours. If I have trouble falling asleep I usually take a hot bath and read. I have more energy and feel better when I get 8-9 hrs now, over 9 and I feel sluggish and blah all day. Sleep is important. Report
I have tried multiple things to get my sleep trouble under control. Unfortunately, after 2 years and constant migraines my doctor felt it necessary for me to use medication. I try to avoid it when possible. One thing that sometimes helps is listening to my iPod on a very low level with a soothing artist that I enjoy. Report
I get a lot more sleep now than I used to. It's made such a difference in my quality of life. Report
I try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a day. Report
One area that isn't talked about are those who have to work shift work and how that can mess up your sleep. My BFF works factory work one week on nights the next on days. I can see how back that effects her. And I remember when I was working in social work and had to work nights.
It can really mess you up.
Wonder if that isn't the reason alot of health care workers have weight issues. that they are tried, not getting enough sleep and then liek someone earlier mentioned eating to get energy. Report
I like to drink watered down tea with a little vanilla soy milk. That warm tea makes me feel so cozy. Report
For years I had trouble sleeping through the night. It wasn't the mattress. After finally listening to my wife, I consulted a sleep clinic. Turned out I had a bad case of apnea. I had no idea. Two years later I sleep very soundly, and the few hours I often have to sleep are much more restorative. Too, I did not know how much of a health risk apnea was. If you wake regularly after an hour or two asleep... get yourself checked out. BUT, get your doc to refer you to a sleep clinic within your insurance provider network. It ain't cheap, but the risks are too much to ignore. Report
When I was dealing with Five children, I went for YEARS without a full nights sleep, so I know what you are dealing with! NOW, I get lots of sleep and I ENJOY every minute of it. Report
I take naps on the weekend.

Thanks for this article. Report
I have never required a lot of sleep, but have discovered no matter how tired and sleepyI feel as soon as I go to bed my legs will not be still! It is the most horrible feeling. I may get four to five hours. I am on call a lot for my job as well, so that makes sleeping more difficult. Even when we go on vacation and I can sleep, I am always up around 6:30. Dr even tried me on sleeping meds and I still don't sleep. Maybe I am afraid I will miss something! Report
I can't sleep unless I say a prayer. It may sound silly but it works for me. And yes, the current affairs do gnaw at my mind. Try a prayer, it works. Report
I agree with others that the more tired you are, the more you will consume without realizing it. The best part of sparkpeople for me is the food diary. It has amazed me the number of calories one can consume without realizing it. So, I don't have trouble sleeping, my problem is finding enough time to get enough sleep. Report
I use a sleep mask as someone else suggested. I don't have any trouble falling to sleep, it's just that I am a night owl who has to get up early in the morning. So, by the end of the week I am dragging.
I need more hours in a day! Report
Great article and great suggestions. One of the other things that works for me is a comfortable sleep mask. Even if I wake up, I don't stay awake long. For me, any light will keep me up if I wake up, but with the sleep mask there is no light peeking through so it helps me sleep better. Report
This is a great article. I never get a good night's sleep so I am definitely willing to try your ideas. Maybe then I can finally get some sleep instead of having insomnia q night. Report
Great article, indeed! If I have a good workout and walk a couple miles or more a day I can have a fitful 8 hours sleep. It's needed. If I eat the wrong things It can rob me of my sleep. S=As stress does, too. Without a full 8 hours I'm like a cranky kid. Report
Don't I know that?! Unfortunately, since I started perimenopause I have been having problems with my sleep. I would be lucky if I got 5 hours straight, or 7 hours all together. I notice my craving for food is much strong if I have a few bad night in a row. Of course, my mind becomes weaker at the same time so I always end up eating more than I should. Report
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