APRIL HEALTH CHALLENGE – IMPROVE SLEEPING HABITS
4 Months into the Sparkling Hill Healthy Lifestyle Challenge and hopefully you are already feeling the benefits of adopting some pretty easy healthy habits. April is no different, as we show you yet another easy change that will have immediate and long term health benefits.
THIS MONTH: IT’S TIME TO IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP HABITS.
During the last few challenges we have concentrated on eating better, as well as exercising more often and consistently. You may already be sleeping better as a result of these changes; but for many Canadians, we still aren’t getting enough quality sleep to match our body’s needs! Infants require around 16 hours of sleep a day, children about 10 to 12 hours, teens need 9 or 10 hours, and adults (including the elderly) require 7 to 8 hours of sleep each and every night. Losing a little sleep every now and then may not seem like a big deal, but the reality is that for most of us, we routinely lose hours of sleep each week contributing to an overall sleep debt. For example; if you lose an hour of sleep each night for a week, that adds up to 7 hours of lost sleep, almost the same as a full nights rest! Poor sleep habits and sleep loss can ultimately affect your long term health.
The benefits of getting enough sleep:
- Physical recovery – our body works hard at night to repair tissues that we damaged during the day, meaning getting enough sleep is crucial to overall healing
- Higher productivity – when our body and mind are rested we can operate at a much higher capacity both mental and physical tasks can be enhanced with better sleep
- Increased immunity – acute illnesses like cold and flu can be prevented with quality sleep
- Improved brain function – sleep helps to aide in learning processes, so we can learn new skills and concepts faster. Sleep also helps with memory retention
- Happiness – People who get enough sleep are generally happier and are less prone to mood swings
- Less pain –we tolerate pain and report less of it, compared to those whom are sleep deprived
- Optimal health – consistent sleep patterns help decrease the likelihood of developing chronic diseases, heart attacks, diabetes, and other preventable health conditions
- Weight control – getting enough sleep can help maintain your weight. Hunger as well as your desire/ability to exercise are both directly affected by the amount and quality of sleep you get
A quick note on naps… Napping can give us a short term energy boost but it doesn’t give us the same benefits as a full night’s sleep. Naps lasting longer than 20 minutes will often lead to a more fatigued and tired feeling. This is because after 20 minutes the body starts to slip into a deeper sleep, suddenly waking from a deep sleep before you are ready can just make you more tired!
Besides consistent timing, making sure that you limit stimulants before bed is also important. Substances like caffeine, alcohol both inhibit sleep. Even food and sugar can act as stimulants. A small light snack before bed is ok, but make sure you are finishing off that big meal at least 4 hours before bed. Other stimulants like bright blue light (from TVs, mobile phones, and tablets) all stimulate the brain and keep you in an awakened state, making it harder to fall asleep. Not to mention the stress or worry that may come from answering work emails or keeping up with social media late at night, your brain can’t shut off like a light switch!
Other techniques to ensure that you get a restful night’s sleep:
- Keep your bedroom cool, most people tend to sleep better in a cool environment compared to hot
- Shut out light, so if you live near street lights or have to do shift work, black out blinds or sleep masks will help to stop triggering light sensors in your body and keep you asleep
- Use gentle music or sound machines to help cancel out jolting sounds like traffic or noisy neighbors
- Exercise before going to bed; if you’re tired from exercise your body will naturally relax. Just make sure to give yourself a little time to calm down after
- Try a hot bath or shower before turning in for the night. Raising your body temperature before bed will have a desirable cooling effect much like keeping your room colder
- Tracking your sleeping habits using a sleep diary or sleep app on your smart phone/ watch, can help you identify if you really are getting good quality sleep
About Paul Bradshaw:
Paul Bradshaw is a Kinesiologist at Sparkling Hill Resort. He graduated from the University of British Columbia Vancouver in 2010 with a Bachelor of Human Kinetics. He is the lead Whole Body Cryotherapy practitioner and also specializes in injury rehabilitation and prevention, and healthy weight loss. Paul is also a certified Kinesio Tape practitioner.