Need Help Getting To Sleep?

By Bryan Patrick


Let's have a show of hands. How many of you know at least one adult who can consistently claim to get a good night's sleep on a regular basis? Actually, let me be more specific. Can you—or anyone you know—claim to regularly get good sleep without the help of a sleep aid? Are you resting enough to naturally replenish your body’s energy supply? Can you get through the day without the help of caffeine or any artificial stimulant? Anyone?

As I ask myself these questions I’m realizing that for nearly everyone I know, good sleep is a newsworthy, rare occurrence—far from routine or even expected at this point. We’ve completely let go of the ability to shut down. Furthermore as a country, our collective health report shows that we’re failing at sleeping! Our lives are running us instead of the other way around and as daylight savings time approaches, our collective exhaustion has become palpable.

Who can afford to lose a whole hour, especially one scheduled right in the middle of the little sleep time we actually get? Nancy Rothstein, also known as The Sleep Ambassador® and Adjunct Professor of NYU’s Sleep Well and Live Well: Six Weeks to Better Sleep program explains how we can shift into better sleep habits that are not just good for our bodies minds, and spirits, but for the earth as well.

Naturally Savvy (Alicia Haywood): Why are so many of us struggling to get a good night's sleep?

Nancy Rothstein, The Sleep Ambassador®: Our 24/7 lifestyles and the seemingly endless barrage of information, activities, and to-do lists all keep us wired and tired. Sleep often takes a back seat to everything else. Furthermore, winding down from a busy day is not a transition people make easily. We have forgotten the simplicity of sleep.

Naturally Savvy (Alicia Haywood): How widespread of an issue is sleep deprivation?

Nancy Rothstein, The Sleep Ambassador®: A recent study by the National Consumer Research Institute found that 76% of Americans want to improve the quality and quantity of their sleep. Also, according to the National Sleep Foundation:

  • 60% of adults report sleep problems a few nights a week or more
  • 69% of children experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week
  • Two-thirds of all women have regular sleep problems

Dr. Oz called sleep deprivation the number one overlooked health transgression in America and I agree! Meanwhile globally, sleep deprivation affects the quality of life for 45% of the world’s population, according to the World Association of Sleep Medicine.     

Naturally Savvy (Alicia Haywood): Speaking of global impact, as The Sleep Ambassador®, you've recently started connecting sleep deprivation to its impact on the environment. What have you discovered so far?

Nancy Rothstein, The Sleep Ambassador®: I refer to this as “the ecology of sleep,” and as this is a new perspective, I don't think there is specific research on the topic, albeit there is likely evidence that can be transitioned to the relationship. Ecology is the study of the interaction of people with their environment. Sleep and both our “internal” and "external" environments are very connected! We tax our environment in ways we normally wouldn't if we were sleeping the number of hours we need which is seven to nine hours according to the National Sleep Foundation. Anyone committed to "going green," should consider whether their sleep needs to be recycled and here’s why:

  • The longer we are up and the less sleep we get, the more we use resources, such as food, water, gas, electricity, and other sources of energy.
  • According to the CDC, 30% of US workers, many of whom are sleep deprived sleep less than seven hours per night. This factor alone presents a likely extra tax on resources.
  • People can help the environment by getting more sleep, and not just the environment that surrounds them, but their "Internal" environment which includes their mind, body and spirit.
  • Not getting enough sleep is not sustainable. Inadequate sleep, both quality and quantity wise impacts health, weight, safety (think drowsy driving), relationships, and decision-making processes.
  • Prolonged sleep deprivation and untreated sleep disorders can lead to a myriad of problems as proven in studies linking sleep deprivation to cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression and more.
  • In short, sleep is green!

Naturally Savvy (Alicia Haywood): I’d like to believe that if more of us clearly understood the connection between lack of good sleep and serious health problems, as a whole, we’d be in much better condition. Can you elaborate on the correlation?

Nancy Rothstein, The Sleep Ambassador®: Here are a few more physiological and neurological examples to consider:

  • Connecting sleep problems to weight issues: substantial medical research confirms a relationship between sleep and weight, as well as obesity. The quantity of your sleep and likely the quality as well impacts hormonal activity tied to your appetite. These hormones are ghrelin (stimulates the appetite) and leptin (sends a signal to the brain when you are full). When we are sleep deficient, ghrelin levels increase so you want more food. At the same time, leptin levels decrease, which means you do not feel satisfied after you eat. So, it's sort of a double whammy which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
  • Connecting sleep problems to muscle repair and tissue growth: During deep sleep, tissue growth and muscle repair take place. When sleep deprived, adequate deep sleep is compromised, as are these important restorative functions. This is especially true when you are ill, have had surgery or an injury. Sleep also impacts physical reflexes, fine motor skills, decision-making, concentration, reaction time and judgment. For example, studies show that reactions of someone who is significantly sleep deprived may be similar to those of someone who is legally drunk.
  • Connecting sleep problems to learning and memory consolidation: research confirms that a lack of sleep impairs a person's ability to focus, as well as to acquire new information. Also, research has shown that adequate sleep is necessary to consolidate memories, so that they are retrievable in the future.

So during sleep the body and brain are very active, and need adequate time to complete all of the phases of sleep for these critical functions.

Naturally Savvy (Alicia Haywood): On Sunday, March 10, most of us in North America will lose an hour as we move our clocks forward for daylight savings time. Are there ways for us to successfully adjust our sleep patterns?

Nancy Rothstein, The Sleep Ambassador®: The easy twist of a dial or shift of a setting on a clock is not an adjustment our body clock can respond to so easily. So here are five tips for a making this unnatural transition to daylight savings time a smoother one this spring:

1.    Save now: Consider changing your clock a few nights sooner that March 10. Keep your "real" calendar for your schedule, but start the process sooner so that first Monday morning is not such a big shock! You can also back up your nighttime routine for a few days to ease into the time change and not feel like you are "losing" an hour of sleep.
2.    Put technology to bed: The blue light emitted from tech devices (iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, laptop, TV, etc.) tells the brain we are not going to sleep by suppressing the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Furthermore, these devices stimulate the brain just when it needs to be shut off. Think of your bedroom as your sleep sanctuary, not your office or entertainment center.
3.    Start with bright light: Expose yourself to bright light upon awakening, signaling the body and brain that it is time to get up. If groggy upon awakening, take a brisk walk or exercise to wake up. Just don't exercise within three hours of bedtime. It is too stimulating to the body and can disrupt sleep. If it is dark when you awaken consider a form of light therapy such as the Litebook.
4.    Keep caffeine on the clock: Caffeine is a stimulant that can impact sleep cycles. I recommend reducing caffeine consumption after about four in the afternoon.
5.    Make it an early "Last Call": Reduce alcohol consumption about 3 to 4 hours before bed. Ironically, alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but it plays havoc with your sleep cycles.

For more tips on how to get a great night’s sleep as we adjust for daylight savings time or anytime, connect with Nancy Rothstein, The Sleep Ambassador® by visiting her website.

Photo Credit: MaryLane

By Bryan Patrick| March 04, 2013
Categories:  Care

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Bryan Patrick

Bryan Patrick

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