The Beauties of Sleep
Shakespeare had it right. Sleep not only "knits up the raveled sleeve of care," it's as necessary to life as food, water, and exercise.
The final ingredient for our minimalist, whole, and healthy lifestyle is one we too often overlook, especially in our modern over-busy, over-stressed lives. Yet a deficiency in this area is linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Lack of sleep makes us depressed, short-tempered, and less emotionally resilient.
Sleep is not the enemy of productivity. It's not what you do when there's nothing good on TV. It's essential.
Why "I'll sleep when I'm dead" is so destructive
Lack of sleep interferes with the production of leptin, a hormone which controls appetite. With increased appetite, it's easier for you to reach for comfort, convenience, and fast foods.
2. Inadequate sleep impairs formation of long-term memories.
While your body rests, the brain processes and consolidates information from the day so it can be recalled later. Without adequate sleep, your ability to learn and retain new information will be impaired. That's why kids need bedtimes too! Lack of sleep could affect them for a lifetime.
3. Good mental health depends on sufficient sleep.
Most of us have experienced irritability and exaggerated emotional reactions caused by lack of sleep. But did you know that prolonged sleep loss can affect emotional development in teens, and has been linked to clinical depression and bipolar disorder?
Sleep comes naturally to babies and small children, but it seems we forget how to do it as we age. In the U.S., the majority of teen and tweens are sleep-deprived,* so this is an issue that affects most of us.
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1. Create a bedtime.
Adults need at least six hours of sleep every night, preferably seven or eight. Getting less than that can lower your metabolism by 15%, meaning you'll gain pounds even without eating any more calories. Like your mother told you...go to bed!
2. Ditch devices.
3. Make it dark.
Darkness is essential to sleep, as it signals the body that it is time to rest. Light exposure at the wrong times will interfere with your body's sleep-wake cycles. If necessary, use blackout shades or a sleep mask.
4. Don't stew.
Honesty, understanding, and a desire to solve problems lead to quality sleep.
- Take time in the early evening to talk through problems or areas of conflict with your spouse.
- Keep a "worry" or prayer list so you can write about issues that trouble you. Try to leave those concerns on the page as you get ready for sleep.
- Decide on the top two or three priorities for tomorrow and make a list to get those pressing tasks off your mind.
- Pray or meditate.
5. Go natural.
Use a bit of lavender essential oil in a reed diffuser in your bedroom or as a pillow spray. Lavender improves sleep by lowering blood pressure and heart rate and calming anxiety.
6. Ease into sleep.
Transition to a great night's sleep with one or more of these activities:
- take a warm bath or shower
- write in a gratitude journal
- do some yoga or stretching
- read a printed book (all devices off!)
- listen to relaxing music
- cuddle with a loved one or pet
Sleep repairs your body, improves your memory, and makes every day better.