Start Off the New Year with More Sleep

Start Off the New Year with More Sleep

Happy New Year!  Despite great intentions, it is almost impossible to escape the large quantities of rich, and maybe not so healthful food as well as the lack of sleep and stress of the holiday season,  After some time, this takes a toll not only on your body, but also on your emotions and self-image.  So, now that we have made it through the season, it is time to take back the control over your own body. Let's start with something simple, but can feel so luxurious.


We often take sleep for granted during busy times, figuring that an extra cup of coffee will be enough to do the trick to stave off drowsiness during the day.  But, sleep is so much more important than we think, it truly impacts every part of your mind, body and emotions.  According to the CDC (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention) more than one third of US adults routinely sleep less than 6 hours per night, which is bad news since the benefits of adequate sleep range from better heart health and less stress, to improved memory and weight loss.  So, how much sleep is really enough sleep?  

Your Body's Requirements

The National Sleep Foundation, a non-profit scientific foundation that publishes Sleep Health, its official journal, has revamped its recommendations based on new evidence and consensus among its panel of experts.  The panel included 6 sleep experts, as well as experts from several other medical associations including the American Neurological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Physiological Society.  The panel (totaling 18 people) reviewed more than 300 sleep studies to reach consensus before publishing the new recommendations based on age, which follow:

Newborn (0-3 months): 14-17 hours 

Infant (4-11 months): 12-15 hours 

Toddler (1-2 years): 11-14 hours 

Preschooler (3-5 years): 10-13 hours 

School-age child (6-13 years): 9-11 hours 

Teen (14-17 years): 8-10 hours

Young adult (18-25 years): 7-9 hours 

Adult (26-64 years): 7-9 hours 

Older adult (65+ years): 7-8 hours

Impact Due to Lack of Sleep

Losing sleep or not getting enough sleep for even one night can have an impact, but when you don't get enough sleep consistently, you can have long-term effects.  Ensuring that you get a solid night's sleep, should be a priority.  And the impact on kids can be even more drastic.  Not only can you avoid crankiness in the morning, but setting them up to have a great day of learning at school is important, and truly within your own control. 

Some of the ways that not getting enough sleep can impact you:

1.  You Get Sick:  not getting enough sleep impairs your body's ability to fight off illness, making it easier to get sick.  According to researchers, getting enough rest is even better at staving off the flu than getting a flu shot!

2.  You Can't Think:  missing even one night of sleep, or suffering one night of restless sleep can lead to cognitive issues effecting memory, decision making, reasoning and problem solving.

3.  Learning Suffers:  not only can one night's missed sleep make you forgetful, but there is also a growing body of research that suggests the impact on learning as well as long-term memory.  Sleep plays an important role in your mind's ability to convert short-term memories into long-term memories and learning. 

4.  You Gain Weight:  in a study examining the relationship between sleep and weight in 21,469 adults over the age of 20 conducted by Sleep and Breathing, it was seen that people who slept less than 5 hours per night over the course of a 3-year study were 60% more likely to gain weight and eventually become obese.  Those who slept 7 to 8 hours per night faired much better.  Additionally, not getting enough sleep causes your body to release cortisol, which is a stress hormone that will result in hard to lose belly fat.

5.  Risk of Diabetes Increases:  in addition to a bigger waistline, those who don't get enough sleep  (or get too much) may increase their risk of developing adult-onset diabetes.

6.  Impacts Your Heart:   according to analysis by the European Heart Journal, both not getting enough sleep and getting too much sleep increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease or having a stroke.

7.  Increase Your Risk of Cancer:  research published by the National Sleep Foundation states that there is a direct correlation with consistently not getting enough sleep and increased risk of breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.

8.  You are More Accident Prone:  I know that when I haven't gotten a good night's rest, I am considerably more clumsy than usual.  In addition to increased minor home accidents, the National Sleep Foundation states that you are three times more likely to get into a car accident if you have had 6 or fewer hours of sleep.

9.  Libido Lowers:  according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, men who lost sleep over a one-week period showed decreased testosterone levels by as much as 10-15%; additionally, moods suffer (but I guess that could be correlated to the lack of libido...)

10.  Your Looks Suffer:  it is called beauty rest for a reason after all...  A Study of a group of 30-50 year-olds were evaluated on their sleep habits and skin condition.  The results were that those who didn't get enough rest had more fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation and looseness of skin.  In addition to the physical aspect, there was an emotional impact as well; they were more likely to be dissatisfied with their looks than their rested counter parts.  So, save yourself some money at the beauty counter- stronger than any chemical that you can put on your skin, good old sleep.

Improving Your Sleep

As you enter the New Year, take a moment to reflect on how you can take care of you.  Do one of the most important things that you can for yourself by focusing on the least expensive and most the natural way to take good care of yourself-  get a good night's sleep consistently.  If this sounds daunting, or even challenging, here are a few suggestions on how to best achieve this new focus.

1.  Develop a sleep routine 7 days a week to help your body establish an internal clock and reduce the amount of time spent tossing and turning.

2.  Get exercise throughout the day to improve sleep quality.  Try to finish all aerobic activity hours before bedtime to ensure adrenaline isn't high, but a little yoga or meditation just before bed can help relax the body.

3.  Limit your caffeine intake not only just before bed, but from the afternoon on and refrain from all processed foods and beverages with caffeine or those chemically decaffeinated.

4.  Quit smoking- smokers are 4 times less likely to feel well-rested after a full night's sleep.

5.  Refrain from alcohol before bed, except for a glass of red wine (which helps produce melatonin).  According to the Mayo Clinic, even though a night cap can make you feel drowsy initially, your sleep will not be as deep and thus you will wake up not feeling rested.

6.  Put down all of your electronics and turn off the tv an hour before bed and pick up a book instead.  You will fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly without the the stimulation of the brain that the lights from you gadgets causes.

7.  Relegate kids and pets to their own beds.  53% of those who slept with their pets and 80% of those who slept in the same bed as their kids reported not getting a restful sleep according to a Mayo Clinic study.

8.  Keep the temperature cool (between 65 and 67 degrees) for the most restful sleep.

9.  Keep your bedroom dark.  Even a small amount of ambient light can disrupt the production of melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles) and overall sleep.  

10.  Modernize your grandmother's old natural get-to-sleep remedy-  make yourself a nice warm cup of almond milk (unsweetened) before bed- it is soothing, and an excellent source of calcium, which helps the brain make melatonin.

Finally enjoy sleep again, make your bedroom your sanctuary and take the time to take care of yourself.  Do it for yourself and your family, who not only need you, but often follow your example. 


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