All Snug in Their Beds
“The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.”
It is that time of the year again when the words of Clement Moore are uttered by many a parent, imparting a rhyme from generation to generation. The yuletide story, “’Twas the Night before Christmas” is an all-time favorite. The words alone can evoke dreams and sleepiness. The image conjures up a restful, peaceful sleep with your favorite squishy pillow and a blanket of the gentlest fleece. One would not even think about not being able to rest properly when you are lying down for a “long winter’s nap.” I prefer to be snuggled and tucked under an over-stuffed, goose-down feather tick covered in a duvet of opaque, billowy silk… Are you getting sleepy yet?
Or are you one of those who lay your head down on your pillow and say to yourself: “Hurry up now and get some sleep because I have a million of things I need to get done!?” All through the house, not only is the mouse stirring, but you are stirring as well! Your brain is far from settled and you have much more than just “sugar plums dancing in your head!”
Sleep can be a fragile commodity especially during the holidays when there are hundreds of thoughts churning in your head. It is a known fact that poor sleep habits contribute to heart health, linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and obesity. Sleeping poorly increases substances in your body, such as C-reactive protein, indicative of inflammation – body’s response to injury, infection or disease. Poor sleep causes the body to manufacture more stress hormones contributing to cardiovascular disease. Conversely, sometimes symptoms related to heart disease can be the cause of poor sleep. Angina, arrhythmias and sleep apnea can disrupt sleep.
Huffpost Healthy Living reports on health problems associated with lack of sleep inquiring “What if the cure for what ails you was as simple as going to sleep?” It all sounds straight forward. Yet many fail to see the extreme impact that something as unpretentious as sleep has on our mind and body. These life influencing issues include:
Research indicates kids who sleep more consume fewer calories and well-rested adults choose smaller portion sizes than their sleep-deprived peers.” It has also been shown that on nights where we have little sleep, we are more likely to crave high-calorie snacks and junk foods. A 2013 study from University of California – Berkeley showed that “high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” Poor sleep is a set-up for poor eating habits.” Beware!
RISK of DIABETES
Research indicates “skimping on sleep significantly hinders how fat cells respond to insulin.” The University of Alabama – Birmingham Associate Professor Martin Young, Ph.D., in the Division of Cardiovascular Disease reported that sleep-deprived individuals weigh more and are at an increased risk of developing diabetes or heart disease due to insulin resistance.
Web MD states that both genders are less interested in sex when they are sleep deprived. Studies have found that a “lack of sleep decreases testosterone and that the overall sleep a man gets is a solid predictor of his testosterone level in the morning.”
Sleep deprivation is related to impaired judgment, slower reaction times and an increase in the likelihood of drowsiness during repetitive tasks. Michael Howell, a neurologist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities states the impact of lack of sleep clearly with: “When you’re sleep deprived, your brain reverts to a teenager — it’s all gas and no brake.”
Research indicates “People who sleep eight hours or more are almost three times less likely to catch a cold as people who sleep less than seven hours each night.” The amount and quality of sleep is directly proportional to our overall well-being. Sleep is equally important as food intake, hydration and physical activity. The inability to get high quality sleep weakens the immune system, causes irritability and increases the incidence of accidents.
RISK of HEART DISEASE
TIME Magazine reported that “Individuals who regularly get fewer than six hours of sleep a night have four times the risk of having stroke symptoms.” The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that lack of sleep leads to calcium build-up in the arteries of the heart, leading to the plaques that break off and cause heart attacks and strokes.
RISK of CANCER
Multiple studies have shown those who average less than six hours of sleep per night have an increased risk or re-occurrence of cancer. Yahoo Health reports “researchers have found surprising links between lack of sleep and several types of cancer, including prostate, breast, and colon cancer, among others.”
An adult requires seven to nine hours of sleep every 24-hour period to remain physically and mentally fit according to the National Sleep Foundation. Sleep is the first responsibility to go as we try to balance our busy lives with family, friends, work and now the holidays.
Looking forward to our “long winter’s nap” and aspiring to heart healthy lifestyle, we do need to recognize that we can improve our sleep habits by simply exercising regularly. There is research that indicated moderate aerobic exercise helps people fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer with a high quality of sleep. According to the HuffPost Healthy Living section “if there’s one magic bullet for enhancing the quality of your life–from increasing your overall health to fighting the onset of age-related disease and elevating your mood and sense of well-being–it’s exercise. And it can also have a positive impact on your sleep.”
Exercise is the most influential first step in acquiring a good night’s sleep. Recognizing the importance and significance of a good night’s sleep is primary to developing good sleep habits.
People who have difficulty sleeping often have a history of chronic stress that arouses one from sleep. Adding simple daily living tasks such as eating healthy and meditating will improve sleep in a shorter length of time.
Choosing relaxing activities prior to sleep and avoiding television, video games and computers that stimulate the mind, will let you peacefully fall into sleep mode.
Choosing simple rituals such as reading, taking a warm bath or shower or sipping on a warm cup of herbal tea can prove to be a restful process.
Turning on some soft music and trying some simple stretches to unwind promote a sense of slumber. Make some preparations for the next day, so the next day will not be lingering on your mind through the night.
Simple strategies such as avoidance of coffee, alcohol and heavy meals will ease us into a good night’s snooze as well.
When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. The darker it is, the better you’ll rest.
Visualize your “happy place” where there is peace and calm. Concentrate on how relaxed you feel.
Rest peacefully. Sleep soundly. Santa’s coming!
Please share how you get a “good night’s sleep.”