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How much sleep do you need?

Eat right, move every joint every day, sleep enough

In two previous posts, I’ve talked about eating right and moving every joint as necessary for the maintenance of good health. Today, the topic covers a third component of maintaining good health that once again, most Americans fail to do. We need to sleep enough. Not too little and not too much, but enough.

How sleep is enough for you? I can’t tell you. But I know very few people who can function well on four or five hours of sleep a night. Neither do I know very many people who function well on twelve hours of sleep every night. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep as you view the most recent research on the subject.

How much sleep do you need?

So how do you figure out how much sleep you need? I would like to tell you there is a great formula that tells you the magic number, but there’s not. It’s a little bit of trial and error. I’ve found the best way most people discover their best sleep is to try the same number of hours a week at a time and keep a diary of how you function with that number of hours.

sleep, healthA few rules to remember as you go through the process, however. Go to bed at the same time every night. That doesn’t mean 10:00 every night except Friday and Saturday when you stay up until 2:00am. The problem most of us get into with our sleep comes from our failure to follow a routine. When our body knows we will go to bed and get up at about the same time every day, it appreciates it. An occasional late nighter will not kill your pattern, but continuously changing your wake up and bed time will.

As you add or subtract time during your experiment, add or subtract not more than thirty minutes at a time. Then stick with that sleep cycle until you’ve tried it for at least a week. It will take you a few weeks, maybe even a few months to figure out your peak number of hours to sleep, but when you consider you’re setting yourself up to function well for a lifetime, it’s well worth the investment.

Quality is as important as quantity

Equally important, though, is not only the duration of our sleep, but the quality of our sleep. We manage today to go to bed with the television blaring, or earbuds plugged in playing the latest hits, or some other light and noise interference that keeps our bodies from realizing it’s time to shut down and go to sleep. Our bodies build a circadian rhythm based on light and noise levels around us. When we never shut out those two things, we confuse the brain and never give it a chance to shut down and replenish our system.

When you sleep, turn everything off. Don’t leave lights on. Don’t listen to the radio. Don’t watch the television. Don’t have distractions when you go sleep. Only two things happen in bed, one of them is sleep. The other we won’t talk about here. Do all those other things somewhere else and concentrate on sleeping when you go to bed.

Unfortunately, some must work night shifts and must suffer sleeping during the day. Now matter how long one tries to get used to it, it’s never quite the same as sleeping at night. Unless, of course, you practice sleeping at night as describe above with television, radio, flashing lights, and all the other sleep disrupters around you. If you must sleep during the day, I would advise getting the room as dark as possible with room darkening shades or blinds, using an eye mask, and creating white noise to shut out the distractions around you.

What a difference sleep makes!

When you find you’re peak sleep time (for most adults between seven and nine hours), you’ll probably wake up without an alarm clock at that same time every day. You’ll probably have little trouble going to sleep if the follow the rules above. You’ll probably feel better and function better than you have in a long time. Sleep allows your body to recover from the stress and strain of the day. It’s how your body heals from the minor events of the day. You need it!

So there you have it. Three simple things you can do for better health that don’t cost anything, but can make dramatic improvements in your daily health. Eat right, move every joint every day, and sleep enough. Sounds simple doesn’t it. So why do so many Americans do so poorly in all three areas? Let’s start a new fad and just do these three things well to begin a growing trend toward a healthier America.


Physical Dimension of Life Balance

The physical dimension of life balance is one often overlooked by Americans. We spend billions of dollars every year in healthcare, yet we are one of the unhealthiest countries. The Army Surgeon General, Lieutenant General Patricia Horoho began a campaign when she entered her position to try to stem the tide of deteriorating health among military members’ long-term healthcare needs by focusing on three simple areas that produce long-lasting results in this physical dimension, nutrition, sleep, and activity.physical dimention

Nutrition – Eating Right

Americans top the list in terms of eating the wrong things at the wrong time. We know what’s right, but just fail to follow the rules. Because of our affluence in the world, we have a tendency to eat tremendous amounts of sugars and fats, grains and processed foods. More than any other country we over indulge and eat more. We want our money’s worth! So we go for the buffet lines. Consequently, our adults are morbidly obese, our kids are obese, and we have the highest diabetes rate in the world. Is it genetics? If it was, it would be type I not type II. Face it, we’re fat because we eat too much of the wrong stuff.

The answer to our physical dilemma? Eat right. Look up a heart healthy or diabetic diet and follow it. Period. Start early. Put your kids on it…now! Teach them that fruit and vegetables are better than chocolate cake…by example! Take the soft drinks out of the house, make them an exception to the rule instead of the drink of choice. There are a lot of fad diets out there that won’t work. Sure they will take off pounds, but the pounds will come back as soon as the diet ends.

The secret to weight loss and healthy living is lifestyle change. That’s where the heart healthy or diabetic diets (they are almost the same) come in. You can change to these diets for a life time and make them your lifestyle eating habits. If you value your physical condition, change your eating habits. it will make a world of different in how you feel day to day.

Sleep – the body’s time to heal

Before electricity, we went to sleep when the sun went down and woke up when the sun came up. We took naps when we got tired and our bodies told us what to do and we did it. Somehow in the last century we decided it wasn’t good to listen to our bodies and most Americans figured out we don’t need as much sleep. We stay up all hours of the night, force ourselves awake with a blaring alarm clock, drag through the day, fall asleep on the coach watching TV, but stay up to watch that movie we just can’t miss and end up going to bed at 1:00. Then start the process again the next day.

Take a few months and figure out what your optimum sleep time really is. Go to bed at the same time every night. No TV, no radio, no distractions. Just a dark room. Set your alarm if you have to, but get up when you wake up and see how long you’ve slept and how you feel during the day. Start at 10:00 for one week, move an hour either way. Tired may mean either too much sleep or too little sleep. Most adults need 7 – 9 hours sleep. Most teenagers need 9 – 12 hours sleep. Most children need 10 – 12 hours sleep. It depends on the person’s metabolism, but figure out what’s right for you. It’s during your sleep that the body heals itself. To improve your physical condition, figure out how much sleep is right for you, not too much, not too little.

When you find the magic number, you’ll find you seldom need an alarm clock. Go to bed at the same time every night. Make yourself a routine. Plan to go to bed at or near the same time every night. Get up at the same time every morning. Even on those day that you could sleep in – don’t! If you find you have to stay up for a special event on some nights, that’s okay, get up at the usual time the next day, but schedule a power nap during the day to let your body catch up on sleep. Don’t break the wake up times. You’re body will thank you for it in the long run.

It really is okay to schedule power naps. A ten minute power nap can do wonders for you in the middle of the day. More than twenty minutes, though, will give you a groggy feeling that is hard to get over, so don’t plan longer than a fifteen minute rest. There are relaxation techniques that can help you get into a restful state quickly to take full advantage of those ten minutes if you have trouble clearing your mind or relaxing. The last ten minutes of a lunch break or that dreaded 2 o’clock wall is a great time to plan a short power pick me up nap.

Activity – moving doesn’t mean becoming a jock

Americans somehow equate the mandate to get active with going to the gym five days a week working out with weights and running a hundred miles a week. Because we see all the gym advertisements and the specimens of physical perfection encouraging us to work out, we slugs assume they must not be talking to us, right? And so we sit on our couch and stuff ourselves with potato chips as we think about what a slug we’ve become.

The third stool of staying healthy doesn’t mean becoming a jock. It means moving every day. So what is that exactly. It means quit circling the parking lot trying to find the closest space. Instead, just park and walk. After all, you’re going to walk every aisle in the store anyway, right? Just add some more steps in the parking lot. It means walk up one flight of stairs and down two flights instead of taking the elevator. It means if you’re at an open air mall, don’t move the car if you’re going to another store, just walk. It means walk around the block. It means if you own a business, reserve your parking place at the back of the parking lot instead of at the door (that’s good customer relations anyway!).

Just move. Make it a point to add some physical activity to your life. Get up off the couch and do some physical things that raise your heart rate a little. Do some things that move your muscles and joints every day. Do so physical things that will let your body recognize that you are not hibernating.

How do you manage these three components of your life?

What are your tricks for eating right? sleeping right? moving more?

How do you avoid the temptations to fall back into bad lifestyle patterns?