If you have been reading my blogs for a while, you already know that sleep is really important for our health. If we don’t get enough sleep, we gain weight and eventually we may suffer from cardiovascular disease. A recent study done at the University of Pennsylvania reaffirmed this. The researchers found that people who slept 4 hours between 4am to 8am for five consecutive days gained far more weight than people who slept normal amounts.
The reason is simple. If you stay up late and sleep less, you eat more food while your body does not need as much calories to support it; so a large portion of calories you ate are deposited as body fat and you gain weight. Why do we eat more? One theory is that if we don’t sleep enough, we get stressed. If we get stressed, the hunger hormone is released and we get hungry. As a result, we eat more.
On the other hand, if you have a good night’s sleep, you can increase the cardiovascular benefits of a healthy lifestyle significantly.
According to a Netherlands’ study, if you live a healthy lifestyle, you can lower the risk of the cardiovascular disease by 57% and the risk of fatal events by 67%. However, if you are getting sufficient sleep regularly (say 8 hours), these risks are lowered even farther; 65% in cardiovascular disease and 83% in fatal events!
Although, it is true that more than 50% of Americans cannot get enough sleep because they are busy, some of us cannot get enough sleep because we cannot fall asleep and stay sleeping. Even if we are in the bed for 8 hours, we wake up tired rather than refreshed. Is there any way to secure our good night’s sleep?
Well, a neurologist at Loyola University who works with people with sleep disorders recommends the following things:
- Start relaxing an hour before bedtime. No vigorous workouts (though I recommend stretching or gentle yoga)
- No texting, emailing, or Googling on the bed. Leave your phone in the next room.
- Read light, short materials. An entertainment magazine is good.
- Prepare a comfortable bedroom… dark, comfortable temperature, good mattress, and quiet (if you live in a city, use ear plugs)
- Go to the bathroom before going to sleep. Stop eating and drinking a few hours before bedtime
- Write down worries, errands, or to-do lists. This will lower your anxieties
- Have a bed time rituals and go to bed around at the same time every night (OK, this is hard for weekend…)
- Limit your activities in the bedroom just to sleep.
- Limit pets in the bedroom.
- Talk with your partner about sleeping so that you both understand what you and your partner need to do in order to get a good night’s sleep.
If you still cannot sleep well, you may want to try a melatonin supplement in a very low dose. I recommend a spray form, as you can regulate the amount. Many pills contain more than 1mg of melatonin. An optimum amount of melatonin to fall asleep is actually less than 0.5mg.
A caution. Some people are very sensitive to melatonin. So it may cause some problems when you try it the first time. Make sure that you use a very small amount to see how you feel. If you feel something is not right, don’t use it!
OK, have a good night’s sleep!
Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Weight Gain, Caloric Intake, and Meal Timing in Healthy Adults. SLEEP, 2013;
Sufficient sleep duration contributes to lower cardiovascular disease risk in addition to four traditional lifestyle factors: the MORGEN study. Eur J Prevent Cardiol, 2013
Getting a good night’s sleep is a nightmare for many Americans. ScienceDaily, Nov, 2013
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