SLEEP- ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH?
Shane Mclean, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, T. Boone Pickens YMCA
Whenever someone asked me what my hobbies were, I answered, “Can sleep be a hobby?” I seriously loved sleep that much. However, then I was a young man without a care in the world and hardly any responsibilities. How times have changed.
Fast forward to my life now, a married man of almost 12 years with 2 young sons and a job that requires very early mornings. Sleep now comes at a premium. No more staying up late and waking up late--my job and our two boys have ended that. Heard the phrase “The early bird catches the worm?” Every morning the kids wake up saying “feed me, feed me,” mouths wide open. They don’t care that dad is tired.
These days I cherish every moment spent sleeping, and I often feel like I am not getting enough sleep. So, you might wonder, how much sleep does someone really need?
The amount of sleep everyone needs is individual. There is no established criteria. Personally, I sleep 6- 7 hours night, but by the middle of the afternoon I am usually feeling drowsy and can barely keep my eyes open. On the other hand my wife is firing on all cylinders on 6 hours sleep. However, if my 7 and 8 year olds had only 6 hours sleep, both mum and dad would be in for a very long day.
This National Sleep Foundation table shows the amount of sleep we need at every age. Sleep duration varies as we age, according to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler, in her article on sleep at www.medicinenet.com.
“Changes in the sleep cycle do occur with aging. Deep or slow wave sleep declines as we age, while light sleep increases with age, so that older adults may spend less time in the more restorative stages of sleep and more time in lighter sleep. Older people are also more easily aroused from sleep.”
So now there is a scientific explanation to why we wake up to every little bump in the night, or in my case every dogs bark or cat’s meow in the predawn hours.
Sleep is often pushed aside in today’s 24-hour society. Can you remember when shopping centers weren’t open 24 hours a day? Or when there wasn’t such a thing has nightshift disorder? People used to wake up with the light and go to sleep with the dark, and any shopping or working happened in between.
Ten or twenty years ago, did we even have sleeps disorders such as Periodic Limb Movements in sleep, which is when you suffer from movements, most typically in the lower limbs, that occur about every 20-40 seconds. What about sleep apnea, when there is a reduction or a pause in breathing when you sleep? The only sleep complaint I remember my grandma talking about was my grandpa’s snoring.
With the amount of sleep disorders diagnoses increasing, and with our 24-hour society keeping us active, sleep for some people is becoming harder and harder to come by. Does it really matter?
Yes, it does. It is not just because of little things like bags under the eyes, however. Sleep deprivation can put you at risk for heart disease and heart attacks. Serious stuff. Not getting enough sleep also messes with our hormones, in particular Cortisol.
Cortisol, which is produced in your adrenal glands, is naturally high in the morning to help you wake and low in the evening to help you sleep. However, when there is a combination of stress and sleep deprivation, cortisol increases during the day, rather than decreases. Elevated levels of cortisol will cause:
- Muscle breakdown- Cortisol’s main function is breaking down substances for energy
- Weight gain- A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that lack of sleep impacts your brain in such a way that it pushes you towards the pantry, not away from it. Only one night of fewer than six hours sleep triggers areas of your brain that is involved in your need to eat.
- Ages your skin- Elevated levels of cortisol from lack of sleep causes a breakdown of collagen, which helps keep you skin smooth and elastic.
Most people, including myself, go through periods of stress and sleep deprivation. But don’t despair; you only need to make a few small changes to help you get that good night’s sleep you have been craving:
- Timing your food intake- Eating the majority of your protein in the morning/afternoon and have your dinner with some carbohydrates (fruit/vegetables, not sugar) which should aid in maintaining a proper Circadian rhythm.
- Manipulate light exposure- Manipulating light exposure for brighter white/blue/green lights in the morning and dimmer red/pink lights (or just darkness) at night definitely does helps in maintaining a proper sleep cycle.
- Supplement with Melatonin- This is a naturally occurring substance in the body, but supplementing melatonin can help to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. I take this every night with side effects, and it works for me. (Since the FDA does not regulate supplements, there may be inconsistencies in brands, so if one doesn’t seem to help, you might try another brand.)
So, help your waistline and your skin by using the three methods above to get so more shut eye. If you still need assistance, schedule an appointment with your doctor or with the Clinical Center for Sleep and Breathing Disorders at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Your body will thank you, and since a rested person is less irritable, your friends and family might, too