Prescription: Sleep

Please excuse my brief hiatus, but after three weeks in Melbourne I am now back in Singapore and ready to pick up where I left off. I had such an amazing time away and found myself falling in love with Melbourne all over again. Needless to say, the vacation was packed with activities and now I am trying to settle back into the routine.

Flying to and from different time zones can not only wreck havoc on your body, but can seriously disrupt your sleep patterns as well. After all my travels ‘catching up’ on sleep is usually the most challenging part. Countless studies have shown that adequate sleep is just as crucial to your health as diet and exercise. Growing up I definitely took sleep for granted and even suffered from bouts of insomnia. I can remember staying up innumerable nights from as early as grade 5 through high school stressing over assignments and so forth. The following day in school I was a complete zombie. Moving into my college years I would spend the night in the library writing papers and surviving on coffee and cat naps. Just thinking about those nights makes me cringe. Unfortunately, those nights of lost sleep can never be ‘made up’ even though we can attempt to on the weekend. What is worse, lack of sleep is linked to all sorts of ailments ranging from depression, diabetes and even heart disease. Sleep affects nearly every aspect of our health.

So how can we overcome chronic sleep deprivation? We can make significant life adjustments to make sure we are getting enough sleep. How much sleep is enough? If you were to ask me, I personally need 10 hours, but it varies from person to person. There is a difference of enough sleep to make it through the day, and enough sleep to function at your optimum performance. The best way to find out how much sleep you need is to determine how many hours is necessary in order to wake up naturally without an alarm feeling rested, energized, and refreshed. Here is a generalized list of sleep requirements from the National Institutes of Health:

Average Sleep Needs by Age
Newborn to 2 months old: 12 – 18 hrs
3 months to 1 year old: 14 – 15 hrs
1 to 3 years old: 12 – 14 hrs
3 to 5 years old: 11 – 13 hrs
5 to 12 years old: 10 – 11 hrs
12 to 18 years old: 8.5 – 10 hrs
Adults (18+): 7.5 – 9 hrs

Among many other roles, sleep influences hormonal and brain functions. Physicians agree that inadequate sleep is a major health concern, but your GP may not be prescribing sleep in your checkups. Sleep can be used to prevent and treat cases of obesity and diabetes. The quality of sleep directly affects your productivity, mental sharpness, balance of emotions, creativity, physical energy, and weight management.

If you are going to bed with the TV on while reading emails on your phone, you are not allowing your body to recognize when it’s time to sleep. In order to achieve healthy shuteye, we need to make sure our environment is conducive to sleep. Different sleep therapies can help promote a restful nights sleep. Establish a consistent sleep and wake schedule. Aim for a cool room temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 degrees Celsius. Don’t eat heavy meals at night. Sleep in complete darkness. If you have street noise like I do, try a sound machine or earplugs. Eliminate caffeine as it can remain in your system for up to 10-12 hours! Quit smoking as it too is a stimulant. Make sure you are exercising at least 30 minutes per day. Practice deep breathing if you have trouble falling asleep. Try progressive muscle relaxation by tensing each muscle starting from your toes to your forehead and then relax. Focus on relaxation and not on sleeping as this may cause stress and anxiety.

Sleep allows our body to perform restorative biological maintenance. Without enough sleep, our bodies will suffer. If you are getting 7 hours of sleep or less per night, you may be headed for chronic sleep deprivation. Try and get to bed earlier and notice the change in energy levels, and you may just get more done in the day than if you were to stay up another hour. Sweet dreams!

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