Grab that nap

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

The way you feel while you’re awake depends on how you sleep. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep supports growth and development.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur instantly (for example, a car crash), or it can harm you over time. An ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and strokes. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Taking a timeout to sleep during the day can give you a quick energy boost as well as health advantages. Power naps can also boost our brains, including improvements to creative problem solving, verbal memory, perceptual learning, object learning, and statistical learning.

Naps improve our mood and feelings of sleepiness and fatigue. Not only that, napping is good for our heart, blood pressure, stress levels, and surprisingly, even weight management.

A power nap is a sleep session that happens during the day (ideally between 1:00 to 4:00 PM) lasting between 10 and 30 minutes. Any longer and you run the risk of developing “sleep inertia” — that unpleasant weak feeling. Naps later than 4:00 PM can disrupt your regular nighttime sleep.

Sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression.  We need to sleep in order to recharge our brains and bodies. But in our busy society, sleep has become somewhat of a luxury.  Without sleep, We become irritable and moody, and if sleep deprivation continues we can experience hallucinations and anxiety, we become emotionally flattened and our relationships suffer, we lose our ability to remember and we can fall into micro-sleeps (5-10 seconds) that cause lapses in attention, which could lead us to nod off while doing an activity like driving.

In order to get a good nights sleep, don’t eat right before bed. Have your final meal about 3 hours before bedtime. Eating too close to bed will leave your digestive system working very hard and might cause an upset stomach throughout the night.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine keeps the body alert and energized. Alcohol may initially calm you or make you feel drowsy, but it actually increases the number of times you wake up during the night.

Reserve your bed for sleeping. Don’t read, watch TV or do work in bed as it will make it hard to wind down. You want to associate your bed with sleep only.

Shut out the lights. Bright lights actually repress melatonin, which is responsible for regulating our sleep cycles. It is also recommended to avoid reading from back-lit devices late at night. The darker the room, the better. Try using heavy curtains and a sleep mask.

Amy Donohoe

Image Credit: SleepDisorders.com