Volume 10 Issue 4

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Page 28 | Abby's Magazine | When life gets busy, sleep is o en the first thing to go. But sleep is more important than you might think. Without proper sleep, your brain has trouble forming memories and learning new informa on. 1 Chronic lack of sleep also takes its toll on your immune and cardiovascular systems . 2 What's more, most of us don't get enough sleep on a regular basis . Even though humans typically spend about one-third of their lives asleep, we s ll don't know exactly why. What we do know is that sleep is a universal human need, and that without enough of it we face serious physiological consequences—both short- and long-term. Your mental health, physical health, produc vity, and well-being are all affected by insufficient sleep. Chronic sleep loss can nega vely affect your cardiovascular health and immunity, learning and memory, metabolism and body weight, energy and mood, and even your physical safety. Drowsy driving, for example, is es mated to be a factor in 328,000 car accidents annually. Before modern sleep research began in the 1920s, scien sts generally regarded sleep as a passive state in which the brain was inac ve. Scien sts have since discovered that, in fact, the brain can be more ac ve during sleep than during waking hours ! With the invention of EEGs (electroencephalograms), researchers could record the electrical patterns of brain activity during sleep and study the two main types of sleep . WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SLEEP? When we sleep, our bodies cycle through two alterna ng phases— REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep—both of which are important for different reasons. REM sleep generally accounts for 20–25% of total sleep each night. It involves ac ve dreaming, irregular respira on, and relaxa on of the skeletal muscles. REM sleep is essen al to our brain and mental health, processing and consolida ng emo ons, memories, and stress. It is also thought to s mulate the brain regions used in learning and developing new skills. NREM sleep accounts for 75–80% of total sleep each night and is the first phase of sleep each night in healthy people. It involves ssue growth and repair, energy restora on, and the release of hormones that are essen al for growth and development. NREM WHY YOU SHOULDN'T SKIMP ON SLEEP BY TERRA LYNN, NORDIC NATURALS sleep is divided into three stages, with each stage represen ng deeper sleep and slower brain waves. REM and NREM sleep typically alternate in 90-minute cycles, approximately three to six mes per night. If and when we don't sleep enough, however, these cycles and the essen al func ons performed during these cycles are interrupted. Sleep deficiency can alter brain ac vity and make it harder to make decisions, solve problems, cope with change, control your emotions, and keep your mood up . It can also impact your blood pressure, blood sugar, body weight, immunity, reflexes, and reaction times . So how much sleep is enough? The Na onal Sleep Founda on recommends 7–9 hours of sleep each night for adults; 9–11 hours for school-age children; 8–10 hours for teenagers; and 7–8 hours for older adults . Sta s cs show that many of us don't sleep enough to meet these recommenda ons, unfortunately. Recent Gallup polls show 40% of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep a night (And perhaps not surprisingly, 43% say they would feel better if they got more sleep . ) . Younger adults say they get even less sleep : nearly half (46%) of 18- to 29-year-olds reported that they sleep six or fewer hours a night. Interes ngly, this same survey in 1942 found that 84% of U.S. adults got at least seven hours of sleep each night, which means that as a society we're now sleeping less overall. Sleep depriva on, it seems, has become a fact of modern life. HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS Since ge ng a good night's sleep is essen al to so many aspects of health, it makes sense that we priori ze sleep no ma er how demanding our schedules get. In fact, priori zing sleep really comes down to developing healthy sleep habits like these : 1. Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each morning, and stick to your routine even on the weekends . This will help you reset your circadian rhythm. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine can help cue your body to start winding down. Try taking a warm bath or shower, reading, or enjoying a warm cup of herbal tea before turning in. 2. Optimize your environment for sleep. Keep your room cool, between 60–67 degrees Fahrenheit, and as dark as possible . Darkness signals your brain to produce the melatonin that makes you sleepy and keeps you asleep . Use a sleep mask or blackout curtains to create your own darkness and ban light-emitting gadgets and TVs from the bedroom, or at least shut them off a few hours before bed.

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