• Great article Bob! In fact, I think I’m going to hit the sack early tonight.

    From Adam
    March 11, 2010

  • I wish i knew about sleep, and healthy lifestyle many years ago. Being a diabetic with sleep apnea, you hit the nail on the head for so many of us. …..A Thanksgiving 2006-2007 attendee.

    From Ivan martin
    March 13, 2010

Quality Sleep and a Healthy Lifestyle

Bob WrightIn honor of National Sleep Awareness Week, March 7th – 13th, H3 Director of Education, Bob Wright, recognizes the effects and importance of sleep on your health.   


The most important factor in living longer may not be exercise, healthy eating or even genetics — it could be the quantity and quality of your sleep.  According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sleep deprivation is a growing epidemic in the US.  Research indicates that nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t get the optimal 8 hours of sleep per night and almost one-third sleeps less than 7 hours.  It’s estimated that 20-30 million of us suffer from sleep apnea, a serious but treatable sleep disorder (often caused by obesity).


While we know from first-hand experience that lack of sleep makes us tired, cranky and less productive- most people don’t recognize its potentially serious effects.  Chronic sleep deprivation can result in:


Increased Risk of Heart Disease.  Studies indicate that women sleeping 6 hours or less a night have a much higher risk compared to those averaging 8 hours.  Sleep is your body’s most basic form of stress management – without an adequate amount, the body can’t fully recover and begins to break down, making it susceptible to heart disease.  Sleep-deprived individuals also have higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which can increase blood pressure, a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke.


Increased Risk of Diabetes.  The sleep deprived may have higher levels of blood sugar.  Severe sleep deprivation can even cause blood sugar levels to increase to pre-diabetes levels.  Fortunately, blood sugar returns to normal with appropriate sleep.  However, chronic sleep deprivation may cause insulin resistance, contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes.


Weakened Immune System.  The ability to produce immune-boosting “killer cells” is reduced during sleep deprivation, making it more difficult to fight infection.


Impaired Cognitive Functions.  Including reduced problem-solving and decision-making skills, diminished short-term memory, impaired logical reasoning, and poor judgment.


Emotional Distress.  Sleep deprived individuals exhibit increased levels of depression, stress, anxiety, worry, frustration and anger.


Weight Gain.  Sleep deprivation can raise hormone levels.  Cortisol increases appetite and causes excess calories to be stored in the abdominal area (the riskiest place to store fat).  Lack of sleep may inhibit the production of male growth hormones, contributing to muscle loss, reduced metabolic weight, and weight gain.


Another subtle, but significant, way sleep deprivation affects you is the impact it has on a healthy lifestyle.  Even when well-rested, it’s challenging to exercise regularly, plan and prepare healthy meals and so on.  It may be next to impossible if you are chronically sleep deprived.


Sleep Deprived or Just Plain Tired?  Take the Test:

 –  Do you need an alarm clock to wake up on time?

 –  Do heavy meals and dull events make you sleepy?

–   Are you a serious snorer (a symptom of sleep apnea)?

 –  Do you sleep longer on weekends?

 –  Can you nap at just about any time?

–   Do you often feel drowsy during the day?


If you answered “yes” to 3 or more questions, you may have a sleep deficit and the NSF suggests talking to your doctor about your sleeping habits.


Most of us, even if we don’t have a significant sleep deficit, can benefit from getting more, better quality sleep.  The NSF offers these suggestions:

–  Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

–  Avoid heavy meals late in the evening.

–  Avoid alcohol late in the afternoon and evening.  Alcohol might help you fall asleep, but may interrupt your sleep later at night.

–  If you smoke, quit.  If you won’t quit, avoid nicotine late in the afternoon and evening.

–  Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon and evening.  Its effect peaks 1-4 hours after consumption and can continue for up to 7 hours.

–  Exercise regularly.  Exercise improves the quality of sleep, especially among the elderly.  Avoid strenuous exercise within 2 hours of bedtime.

–  Establish a relaxing pre-bed routine such as taking a warm bath, reading, or meditating.  This allows you to unwind and sends a signal to your brain that it is time to sleep.

–  If you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, get up and do something relaxing like listening to soothing music or reading a book.


For more information, visit the NSF website at www.sleepfoundation.org.


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