‘Tis the season to get too little sleep!
The CDC estimates that 50-70 million Americans probably have some kind of sleep disorder. And according to a recent poll, close to 40% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep a night!
Add the craziness of the holidays — shopping, parties, activities, and an unending to-do list running through your mind — and one can imagine that 7 hours shrinking and shrinking…
So what can happen to your mind and body with too few Zzzzzzz’s??
- Weight gain. As if it wasn’t hard enough to keep the extra lbs at bay through the holidays. The late nights and early mornings can make it even harder! Not only does sleep loss stimulate your appetite, but it can make you crave bigger portions of high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods and create a tendency towards unhealthy choices at the grocery store.
- Makes you look older. When you don’t get enough sleep over time, your body releases an excess of the hormone cortisol, which breaks down collagen in the body, causing those pesky fine lines. In the short term, there are those puffy eyes and dark circles to contend with…
- Makes you forgetful, impairs your cognitive abilities. Just one night of sleep deprivation has been linked to significant loss of brain tissue. Sleeplessness not only impairs memory, but also reasoning, problem solving, attention, alertness and concentration.
- Which leads us to…impairing your ability to drive. Just don’t do it. Sleepiness is the cause of 100,000 car accidents and 1,550 accident-related deaths each year.
- Chronic sleep deprivation can put you at risk for serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and depression.
SO HOW CAN YOU GET MORE SLEEP???
- Create a soothing environment. Soft lighting, comfortable bedding, relaxing music. Get the TV’s, computers, tablets and phones out of the bedroom, turn the temperature down a few degrees, and turn any bright clocks away from you.
- Find a routine and stick to it consistently. Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every night and every morning. Yes, even on the weekends.
- Avoid indigestion and heartburn by limiting foods and drinks before bed. Say no to alcohol and caffeine.
- Consider natural sleep enhancers, such as herbal tea or warm milk. Ask your doctor about over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids.
- Nip the nap. If you can’t get through your day without a snooze, limit it to 20 minutes or less. Anything longer than that can make you groggy for the rest of the day and make it harder to fall asleep that night.
- De-stress and let your worries go. Keep a journal by your bed and use it to write down those random thoughts and concerns that keep you awake. Close the book and know that there’s nothing you can do about it in the next 8 hours anyway. Try adding meditation, gentle yoga or a warm bath into your daily routine.
- See your favorite doctor. If sleep continues to be a problem, consider getting a check up and ask your doctor about the possibility of a sleep disorder.