Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
Recently, a client asked for my opinion on Sleep Training. Prior to the client’s inquiry, my knowledge of sleep training was related to infants, wherein the parents or caregivers engage in a tactical approach to help the infant adapt to a regular sleep schedule. It turns out that Sleep Training is something of a new fad with executives in various sectors, who have apparently embraced Sleep Training as an attempt to rewire their biology to adapt to less sleep (e.g. four hours instead of seven to eight). With less sleep, an individual could (in theory) increase their work-time productivity and could (in theory) increase their performance.
Frankly speaking, Sleep Training for adults may be the most bogus practice I have ever encountered. Sleep is an essential physiological need, like food, water, or oxygen. As with these other needs, there are long-term repercussions if the body receives less than its required amount on a regular basis. The human body is designed to survive if resources are deficient, but operating in survival-mode is very diﬀerent from optimal functioning. Over time, body function will be compromised by a plethora of health issues. Long-term sleep deprivation can cause a person’s immune system to be compromised, making them more susceptible to getting sick. They will be more likely to develop cancer and neurological issues. Oh, and they will age at a much faster rate than their peers that are getting their necessary Zzzz’s!
The human adult body requires seven to eight hours of sleep a night. To some people, this might seem impossible, impractical, or even ridiculous. If you are one of these individuals, you aren’t alone. In 2007, the Cooper Institute in Dallas, TX reported that 38% of adults in their patient database reported less sleep than they reported five years prior. The National Sleep Foundation reported that the number of Americans who sleep fewer than six hours a night has increased from 13% to 20% over the past decade.
Sleep deprivation is a prevalent trend in the United States, which could partially be due to an ongoing increase in the number of hours employees work each year (which is expected to continue rising).
Let’s face it: stress and pressures from work aﬀect every one of us. Some of us are better than others at coping, and others of us really struggle. At some point, nearly all of us will have periods of time when stress drives us into unhealthy behaviors that create poor sleeping habits. However, it’s vital to remember that during sleep, the human body goes into repair-mode. Tissue repair, hormone normalization, and free-radical damage repair are just a few of the processes that take place as we sleep. When we are awake, our metabolic reserves are pulled to the necessary processes that keep us alert (i.e. movement, cognitive processing). Without sleep, the body will continue to dedicate its available resources to the functions and processes involved in the wake cycle and will not be able to perform the necessary functions of repair and restoration that occur in the sleep cycle. A healthy sleeping schedule is therefore not only necessary for general health, but for staying alert and productive at work as well!
Tips for increasing your sleep quality:
- 1. Set a bedtime and don’t waiver from it for two weeks. Set a bedtime that will give you seven to eight hours of sleep. Be realistic. If you have trouble falling asleep, build in an extra hour to help quiet your mind and body. Once you set the time, do not give yourself permission to change it for at least the first two weeks.
- 2. Avoid stimuli like the television or computer work once you go to bed. If you are used to falling asleep to the television, try reading as an alternative.
- 3. If you have trouble “winding down” before bedtime, try taking a hot shower or bath. You can also try a decaﬀeinated cup of hot tea prior to bedtime to help you get into the zone of relaxation.
- 4. Click HERE for BodyHealth products that can assist with optimum sleep that can be used as a part of your nightly routine to increase relaxation and promote sleep.*
- 5. Avoid alcohol, caﬀeine and sugar close to bedtime as these can disrupt sleep.
- 6. Consider measuring your sleep. Smartphone apps, smart watches, and even old fashion pen to paper journaling are eﬀective ways to help monitor the amount of sleep you are getting.
- 7. Spouses and loved ones can also be a great barometer of our sleep quality: simply ask them if they are noticing a diﬀerence in your overall mood, demeanor, energy level, etc.
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- 2. Buman, M. P., Phillips, B. A., Youngstedt, S. D., Kline, C. E., & Hirshkowitz, M. (2014). Does nightiime exercise really disturb sleep? Results from the 2013 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll. Sleep Medicine, 15(7), 755-761.
- 3. Cooper, Kenneth H. and Tyler C. Cooper. Start Strong, Finish Strong: Prescriptions for a Lifetime of Great Health. 2007.
- 4. The relationship between access to benefits and weekly work hours. (2015). Monthly Labor Review, 29-34.
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- 8. (2014). Genetic association of objective sleep phenotypes with a functional polymorphism in the neuropeptide S reception gene. Plos ONE, 9(6), 1-5.
- 9. Wang, G. Y., Lee, C. L., & Lee, E. D. (2004). Genetic variability of arylalkylamine-N- acetyl-transferase (AA-NAT) gene and human sleep/wake pattern. Chronobiology International: The Journal of Biological & Medical Rhythm Research, 21(2), 229-237.
- 10. Welsh, D. T., Ellis, A. J., Christian, M. S., & Ke Michael, M. (2014). Building a self- regulatory model of sleep deprivation and deception: The role of caﬀeine and social influence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(6), 1268-1277.