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Debie Schroeder RN, BSN
Professional Health Coach

Sleep deprivation is a growing problem in the United States.  More than 40% of the population is chronically sleep deprived.  Prior to the invention of electricity people slept an average of 10 hours per night.  Today people are trying to get by on as little as 4-6 hours per night.

This chronic sleep deprivation is having a serious impact on our health.  People who are sleep deprived experience decreased alertness, increased body weight, decreased energy, moodiness, decreased memory, decreased reaction time, decreased productivity and performance, increased risk for infection, safety hazards, decreased creativity, accelerated aging process, decreased general wellbeing, and decrease in communication skills.  These are just some of the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation.

Women are especially prone to sleep deprivation.  You are managing and performing all your work responsibilities, household duties, parenting and family responsibilities, and still desiring to find time for a social life, exercise and recreation.  It can be difficult to keep up with all the day to day activities and be in bed early to ensure you get a good night's rest.  Most of you are probably pushing yourself to keep going even through the exhaustion.  Drinking large amounts of caffeine or eating for energy.  This busy lifestyle can lead to serious health issues if left unbalanced.  Most people have no idea how much their lack of sleep is affecting their life until they start to repay their sleep debt.

Some signs of sleep deprivation are:

  • Falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow.  Most people will take 15-20 minutes to fall asleep if not sleep deprived.
  • Struggle to get out of bed in the morning
  • Require an alarm clock to wake up
  • Feeling drowsy or tired during the day
  • Falling asleep during the day
  • Excessive moodiness
  • Decreased alertness

An interesting experience happens when you start to honor your body and give it the rest it requires.  You will actually become more productive, have energy that lasts all day, be more creative and resourceful; you will be in a good mood and be less prone to illness.  When you wake up refreshed and energized, you will be excited to face the day instead of dreading getting out of bed.  As you start to make sleep a priority, note all the improvement that occurs with better sleep.

According to Dr. James B. Maas there are 4 golden rules for sleep.  The first rule is to get adequate sleep every night which is usually 7-9 hours per night for adults. The next is to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday including weekends.  The third rule is to sleep 7-9 hours for a continuous period of time.  The final rule is to make up any lost sleep as soon as possible.

To help you sleep better and feel well-rested and full of energy here are some tips and tricks.

1.        If you aren't sleeping long enough, start to go to bed 15-30 minutes earlier.  Every week continue to go to bed an additional 15 minutes earlier until you find the right amount of sleep for your body.  You will know you have had enough sleep when you don't require an alarm clock to wake you up and you feel well rested upon waking up.

2.       Sleep in a dark cool room. 

3.       Create a bedtime ritual to prepare your body for rest.  Consider creating a power down half hour where you spend 10 minutes doing light chores and preparing for the next day, 10 minutes on personal hygiene and 10 minutes in prayer or mediation.

4.       Remove any electronic devices from your bedroom.  TV's and computers in the bedroom have been shown to affect quality of sleep.

5.       Do not eat for at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.  Digestion requires a lot of energy and will interfere with sleep.

6.       Replace your mattress every 5-7 years. 

7.       Replace your pillow every 1-2 years.

8.       Create a restful environment in your bedroom.  Eliminate clutter and other distractions that will interfere with sleep.

9.       Avoid doing any activities in bed other than sleep and intimate relations.

10.   Listen to quiet music or nature sounds to block out any other distracting noises and promote rest.

11.   Journal your thoughts, worries or to do list prior to going to sleep so you are not lying in bed worrying.  Write them down and let them go for the night.

These are a few tips and tricks to get you started to create a restful night's sleep.  We create our habits and they are the foundation for everything you do.  You may have created a habit of putting sleep as a last priority.  I encourage you to start to develop new habits around sleep and notice how much better you feel when you are well rested.


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