It’s crucial to set aside time to sleep

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By Danette Vernon

If you live to be 90 you will have slept away 32 years of your life. This stat may bring out the hedonist in you and have you singing — as many musicians have in the past — “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”

Musicians need to be wary of all of those late nights. Experts say that creativity is enhanced three fold by a good night’s sleep.

Russell Foster, circadian neuroscientist, points out that it’s not just the young at heart that dispute the importance of sleep.  He quotes Wall Street’s sneer at leisure time, “Money never sleeps!” and Margaret Thatcher’s contemptuous, “Sleep is for wimps!”

Statistics support our overall societal dismissal of setting aside time to sleep. In 1950 Americans got an average of 8 hours of sleep a night. Today the average is 6.5.

How wrong we are! Sleep is so much more than an indulgence. Russell Foster noted that poor judgment and distraction from a lack of sleep (shift work), played a part in the Challenger explosion and Chernobyl.

So while you’re most likely not going to blow something up or go down in history, thanks to your kids crying late last night and keeping you awake, a chronic lack of sleep does more than put one on the path for inattentive driving.

Authorities agree that a persistent lack of sleep can lead to premature aging. Going without your nightly “40 winks” interferes with the growth hormone production which is a part of reaching a deep sleep. Sleep deprivation may contribute to a lowered immune system, accelerate tumor growth, and can cause a pre-diabetic state.

Going without the proper amount of sleep can lead to diabetes, as not getting enough rest changes your brain chemistry. You may start to crave carbs, particularly sugars (this process increases your likelihood of being obese by 50%). Going without sleep causes stress. Stress creates a high glucose state, which can also lead to diabetes. It’s an epidemic you don’t want to join.

If you are not getting enough sleep and you’d like to start, the best advice is a dark, cool, room with no light exposure. Generally, we all brush our teeth as one of the last things we do — try doing that in reduced light. Natalie Beauchamp, Canadian health guru, suggests that the best time to sleep is between 10  p.m. and 6 a.m. Dr. Mercola, noted health expert, tells us to, “Get to bed as early as possible. Your body (particularly your adrenal system) does a majority of its recharging between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins during this same period. If you are awake, the toxins back up into your liver, which can further disrupt your health.”

You are further advised by the experts that if you want a before bedtime snack, eat protein or a piece of fruit. Avoid carbs or grains before bed (these foods may cause a blood sugar dip, that can later wake you up). Research shows that wearing socks to bed may help you avoid waking up, as your feet have the poorest circulation.

Write in a journal before bed, as journaling helps you prepare for next day and may ease a restless mind.

Start your day with morning light to help jump start your circadian cycle. Exercise, since it regulates hormone levels and oxygenates your brain. Get enough sunshine, as sunshine regulates your hormones as well.

Some people have a drink to get them off to “la-la land,” but alcohol sedates rather than actually sending you off to the land of dreams. Therefore, you miss out on various important stages of sleep and the memory consolidation that is so critical for a rested body and mind.

No matter what you do, establish a routine and stick to it!