RULES TO GET YOUR BEST NIGHT’S SLEEP
by Dr. Bruce Figoten
Anyone who doesn't get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis has experienced one or more of the following: weight gain, depression, decreased brain volume, drowsiness and loss of alertness. Scientists are beginning to understand that our health doesn’t rely only on the quantity of sleep but by the quality of sleep. The process of sleep is to restore energy and rejuvenate the cells in our body. We can look at it like recharging a battery.
Some of the proven tips for better sleep are obvious. They include the following: drinking coffee late in the day or before bedtime, lack of time to wind down after a hard day and keeping stress out of the bedroom as much as possible. As we adapt to new trends and technologies, so must we adapt to new sleep habits. Research is yielding new insights and antidotes to the tossing and turning that make sleep less restorative than we need it to be. The following are the “Rules To Get Your Best Night’s Sleep.”
#1 -- “Stop using the snooze button”
By dozing off for a few more minutes, even after getting 8 hours of sleep, the alarm can have the opposite of its intended effect. The reason being is you can slide into a new sleep cycle. This can lead to the groggy sensation that researchers call sleep inertia. This impairs things like alertness, memory and reaction time.
It also creates the impression that you got a lot less rest than you did.
#2 -- “Try to see the (day) light”
There was a study done in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that found workers who sat in front of windows and received natural light got more sleep than workers who sat far from windows. They got 46 fewer minutes of sleep per night.
#3 -- “Shut down that tablet”
Studies have shown that reading from your iPad resulted in less sleeping before bedtime than those that read from a paperback. They were also sleepier and less alert the following morning after 8 hours of sleep.
#4 -- “Nix the nightcap”
Alcohol may make you feel drowsy, but it’s bad for your sleep cycles. Research showed that alcohol increased brain waves that increased resting but not sleeping.
#5 -- “Pay attention to the moon”
I know it sounds weird, but the moon may impact your sleep. A study reported that participants who slept in a completely dark lab got an average of 20 fewer minutes of sleep per night on the days shortly before or after a full moon and also showed lower levels of melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy) and 30% less brain wave activity, which is associated with deep sleep.
#6 -- “Beware the night shift”
A study followed nearly 75,000 nurses and found that those who worked rotating night shifts had an 11% higher risk of early death than those who did not. If they worked that schedule for more than 15 years, their risk of dying from heart disease was 38% higher than their peers’. They also had heightened risks for several types of cancer.
#7 -- “Burn energy”
A study found that older adults who suffered from insomnia were able to sleep 45 to 60 minutes longer per night by exercising for 30 minutes three or four afternoons a week.
#8 -- “Take an intermission”
Historians now know that our ancestors slept very differently from us. While most adults today go to bed and stay in bed, in the past people slept for a period, woke up for an hour or so, and then went back to sleep. A professor at Virginia Tech reported this as “segmented sleep.” What we do is called “consolidated sleep.” Therefore, if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night, don’t stress out. Take a break for an hour and then go back to sleep.
#9 -- “Seek medical help”
Studies have shown that approximately 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. This not only results in drowsiness from poor sleep quality but can raise blood pressure to a dangerously high level and can lead to various disease states due to a continual lack of oxygen during sleep. Most sufferers snore loudly and stop breathing for short periods. It is important to have a “sleep study” in order to diagnose this condition properly.
I hope these rules may help some of you get better sleep and have healthier lives. Please pass them on to your friends and family.
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Dr. Bruce Figoten is a long-time member of the MCLA Sacred Path family and has been a men’s retreat tribe leader and valued mentor to other men on the mountain for over 16 years. His expertise and background as a clinical pharmacist, chiropractic doctor and college pharmacy professor have been supplemented by real-life physical and emotional challenges he’s overcome himself include divorce, open heart surgery, diabetes and sleep apnea.
Dr. Figoten also teams up with Dr. Michael Lewis and other MCLA health experts to lead a men's health panel discussion at each of the Sacred Path Men's Retreats. No topic is off-limits. Come join us Oct. 15-18 and get all your men's health questions answered in a supportive, fun, encouraging atmosphere. Life is short. It's so important to be healthy and make the most of every minute. Do a healthy favor for your mind, body and spirit and join us on the mountain in October.