Have you ever considered the difference between being awake and being asleep? Whilst asleep your heart continues to beat, your lungs continue to breathe, and your kidneys keep filtering to name but three functions. Indeed all body processes continue in some way.
The central difference between being awake and asleep is the conscious mind. This is essentially “switched off” and the five senses have raised thresholds. Most people will not hear a soft sound while asleep but all will hear a loud bang. Likewise most may not notice being touched with a feather but all would feel a bucket of cold water.
Exactly how the body maintains itself while we sleep is not known. What we do see is the effects of not getting enough sleep. These are many and varied and affect all age groups.
It has been shown again that there is a correlation between the weight of preschoolers and the number of hours they sleep. One of the simplest ways to reduce childhood obesity is getting kids to have enough sleep-generally 10 hours.
Teenagers who get enough sleep do better in school and are less likely to suffer mental health problems. Studies have shown repeatedly that teens who want to sleep in are not lazy-they actually need the extra sleep. This is in part due to the additional demands on their bodies from growing. Older teens are less likely to be involved in car collisions when they have had enough sleep. Even bullying behaviour is related to lack of sleep.
Adults who do not get adequate sleep have a higher rate of all cause mortality-they are more likely to die prematurely. Now exactly what constitutes enough sleep for an adult is debated but in my opinion the answer is eight hours on most nights. Seven hours would be an absolute minimum. Even though some people claim to “get away” with less the key words are “get away” and it generally catches up with them.
People getting under seven hours sleep are more prone to high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and even diabetes. People who lack sleep are more likely to be overweight. These factors apply at any age but are even more potent in those aged over 60.
And if none of that impresses you then there is also the effect on your skin. The term beauty sleep has not come about without a good reason reason. Our skin looks better when we have enough sleep. This is a simple and totally free part of any beauty regime.
So what can we do to sleep better?
There are two categories here. The first group is what you do during the day to help you sleep better at night.
1) Do regular exercise
2) Take up meditation yoga or tai chi.
3) Eat more fruit and vegetables and less refined processed carbohydrates
4) Manage your stress
The second group is things you do in the lead up to and time of going to bed. Not everything works for everybody so use what works for you.
1) Have a routine. Go to bed around the same time each night
2) Switch of screens be it TV or computer at least 45 minutes before bed time
3) Burn some fragrant candles with a calming scent
4) Do not drink caffeine after 6pm
5) Listen to calming forest music or play a guided relaxation
6) Have a comfortable mattress and pillow
7) Make the bedroom dark and quiet
8) Drink a calming tea like chamomile tea
It may sound obvious but when you are tired at night go to bed. You would not refuse to have a drink if thirsty so do not refuse to sleep when you are tired. Do not see sleep as optional or something to “crib” time from
Sleep is the body’s maintenance time and is vital for good health. See it in this light, get adequate sleep, and you will look and feel better.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.