Mental and physical stress soaks up your body’s energy in massive quantities. As a result, the useful energy available to deal with healthy, day-to-day life activities – such as metabolizing food or expelling toxins – is instead dealing with all the thought patterns associated with stress. Our bodies prepare themselves to deal with stress defensively by diverting energy to the muscles to enable the “fight-or-flight” response. When our body does this for prolonged periods of time we may feel lethargic, even ill. So how does one combat this? The answer is simple: get more sleep.
There are several lifestyle factors that sap physical and mental energy and block the flow of useful energy. Poor sleep patterns is chief among them. Studies show that many of us are spending increasingly less time asleep, giving our bodies less time to restore and replenish. There are times in our lives when we are not in control of our sleep patterns, such as tending to an ill loved one, breast feeding a child, working an off shift, or traveling across time zones.
According to The Sleep Wellness Institute, adults aged 30-60 need 7-9 hours of sleep per night and those over 65 need 7.5-8 hours each night. If you are falling short of that target, there are several environmental factors that you can change. Good sleep hygiene and limiting caffeine to only part of your day may aid in both the quality and quantity of sleep. Nicotine is another stimulant that interferes with quality sleep – yet another reason to quit. If, however, you feel as tired when you awake as when you go to bed or if you fall asleep while driving or sitting in a warm room these may be signs of a more serious medical condition called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea requires medical evaluation and you should consult your primary care provider.
Being mindful that sleep is an important factor toward developing a healthy lifestyle is taking the first step. Just as you schedule time for work and other commitments you should schedule time for sleep. Instead of cutting back on sleep in order to complete daily tasks, you should put sleep at the top of your to-do list.
Do you feel like getting a good night’s sleep is a serious problem? Columbia St. Mary’s has teamed with The Sleep Wellness Institute, a group of physicians and other clinicians dedicated to helping people sleep. You can find out how to contact them here.