Happy New Year! I love turning the page on a new calendar year. It is a great time to reflect on what went well (and not so well) last year and set a list of new goals and intentions for the year ahead. If you are anything like me you have A LOT in store for this coming year, which can feel equal parts exhilarating and overwhelming.
The good news is that many of your goals can be accomplished by focusing on one thing. And, that one thing is - sleep!
Want to yell less at your kids? Sleep is the key.
Are you planning to get into better shape? Sleep can help.
Are you focused on improving your family’s health this year? More sleep is what you need.
I know it may sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but I promise, there is scientific research to support the benefits of adequate sleep. Sleep helps us to be our emotional, physical and cognitive best. Here is a just a sample of the long list of benefits that we enjoy when we make time to get enough sleep...
More Control Over Emotions - I am sure you have experienced increased irritability after a poor night’s sleep. You have likely witnessed this in others too - especially in your children. Scientists now know why this occurs. In a 2015 study, researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) discovered that when subjects were short on sleep there was an increase in stimulation of the amygdala - the part of the brain that processes emotions, especially fear, anger and rage.
Basically, when we are sleep deprived our brain is unable to determine what is important and therefore interprets everything as important. That is why after that night of poor sleep, the littlest thing - such your child crying because you won’t let him watch “Baby Shark” on your phone for the 100th time - may send you off the deep end (not that I know from experience).
Improved Weight Regulation - Sleep deprivation makes our hormones go bonkers. Especially the hormones that control our appetite - ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the “go” hormone that tells our body when we are hungry and leptin is the “stop” hormone that tells are body when we are full. When we don’t get adequate sleep, are bodies produce more ghrelin (go) and less leptin (stop) which results in overeating and increased calorie consumption.
Research shows that we consume on average 385 more calories per day when we sleep between 3.5 to 5.5 hours versus sleeping between 7 to 12 hours. When you consider that it can take 30 minutes of running to burn 300 calories, the difference is significant. I don’t know about you, but I would chose sleeping over running any day!
Stronger Immune System - While we sleep, our immune system releases its soldiers - cytokines, antibodies and white blood cells - to fight infection and inflammation. That is why when we are sick our bodies almost demands that we slow down and sleep.
Being sleep deprived increases our susceptibility to viruses. One study shows that adults who sleep less than 7 hours per night are 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who sleep more than 8 hours per night.
Our bodies respond better to vaccines when we are well rested too. A study from the University of Pittsburgh found that participants who received fewer than 6 hours of sleep were 11 times more unlikely to be protected by the Hepatitis B vaccine than adults who slept for more than 7 hours on average.
It looks like the old saying about an apple needs to be changed to 7 hours of sleep a day!
Better Retention of Information - I am certain that the term Mommy Brain exists because moms are typically sleep deprived and the sleep they are missing is critical for proper brain function, especially Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep which is the type of sleep moms typically miss out on when their children are waking throughout the early morning hours. When we are in REM sleep our brains are busy organizing, removing and storing information. REM sleep is the key to learning. Research has shown that college students naturally obtain more REM sleep during final weeks. One study conducted at Baylor University found that college students who commited to sleeping for at least 8 hours during finals performed significantly better when compared to those who did not.
You can think of sleep as a reboot for our brain. If you miss out on this sleep it can make you forgetful, affect your problem solving abilities and decrease your focus. Basically, it is the leading cause of Mommy Brain. :)
I hope that I convinced you to add “get more sleep” to your list of goals for 2019. After seeing firsthand the profound impact getting adequate sleep has hand on my family and for the hundreds of families that I have helped, I am convinced that sleep is vital for good health, happiness and harmony.
If sleep is an area that you would like to improve this year, here are a few simple yet effective ways to make sleep happen…
Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning - even on the weekends.
Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day.
Don’t consume caffeine or alcohol late in the day.
Create a sleep sanctuary that is dark, cool and comfortable.
Avoid watching TV, working on your computer or playing on your phone for 1 to 2 hours before bed.
Adopt your own relaxing sleep routine - bedtime routines are not just for children!
Take a bath. It is relaxing and helps your core body temperature to drop which facilitates sleep.
Meditate. My favorite app for guided mediation is the Calm app.
Don’t just lie in bed if you can’t sleep, get up and do a relaxing activity for 20 minutes and then try again.
Make sure your children are sleeping well so that you can get the sleep you need too. They are even more greatly impacted by sleep deprivation.