megaflopp/BigStock
Source: megaflopp/BigStock

You need your sleep.  If you don’t get it, your body operates under stress.  Sleep deprivation has been linked to increases in depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, as well as memory and cognitive problems.  This isn’t a pretty picture. 

The Seattle Times ran an article heralding the completion of an extensive study on sleep by the Centers for Disease Control. [1]  According to this study done by the CDC, which looked at a variety of issues relating to sleep including obesity, the healthiest (i.e., thinnest) people slept more than six hours a night but not more than nine hours a night. 

Apparently, the study found that if you sleep too little, it’s a health issue, and it’s also a health issue if you spend too much time in bed.  Kind of a Goldilocks sleep solution – not too big, not too small, but just right.  I guess that doesn’t surprise me.  What does surprise me is how many people begrudge getting seven or eight hours of sleep a night.  They believe sleeping less makes them more productive.  Oh, you may be awake more hours during the day, but your ability to function well during all that extra time awake is compromised.  When it comes to sleep, less is definitely not more. 

Operating under a sleep deficit isn’t a cause to brag about how little sleep you need.  It’s cause of concern.  Lack of sleep causes your brain to be, well, tired and sluggish.  You have a harder time making cognitive connections, while you have an easier time making mistakes. 

Below are several suggestions on how to maximize your ability to sleep:

Keep to a regular schedule.  Try to go to bed, and wake up, at a similar time each day, including weekend.  This establishes a pattern for the body. 

Prepare your sleep environment by keeping it dark and quiet.  Sleep on a good quality, supportive mattress, and be sure to keep the room at a comfortable temperature. 

Do not use tobacco or alcohol from the late afternoon on.  The nicotine in tobacco is a stimulant, and alcohol negatively affects your quality of sleep.  As for consuming alcohol, for those who are able to do so in strict moderation, that’s fine.  However, I see a great many people who turn to alcohol to self-medicate other issues and work with those individuals to develop the tools and pattern of sobriety.

Keep your bedroom your bedroom.  Don’t turn it into an auxiliary television room, computer room, or workstation.  Your bedroom should be a place where you give your mind permission to rest, turn off, and go into “sleep” mode. 

Try warm milk or a cup of non-caffeinated hot tea.  Keep any liquid consumption limited to around 4-6 ounces or you’ll end up waking up during the night to use the bathroom. 

Turn the clock around so you can’t see it.  Fixating on the changing time isn’t going to enhance your ability to relax and fall asleep. 

Take a hot bath or shower just prior to going to bed.  Some people find this very relaxing.  Allowing your body to physically relax will assist your mind in triggering its internal shut-off switch. 

Read a book. Reading, for many people, helps them relax and tune out the events of the day.  It’s important to choose your reading material wisely, of course. 

You may be one of those people who really want to experience good sleep, but simply cannot.  Sometimes, for everyone, sleep can be elusive, but if this is a pattern for you, I encourage you to consult with your physician. 

Sleeping poorly isn’t something you should learn to put up with.  Instead, it’s a critical area for your health and needs to be aggressively addressed with health-care professionals.  It’s not just a good night’s sleep; it’s the foundation for everything that happens in the day that follows. 

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

[1] Mike Strobbe, "Too Much, Too Little Sleep Tied to Ill Health in CDC Study," Seattle Times, May 9, 2008, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2004397675_apsleepobesity.html (accessed September 23, 2008).

About the Author

Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D.

Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D., founded The Center for Counseling and Health Resources in Edmonds, Washington.

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