Studies show that my Italian parents who taught me to sleep with one eye open were wrong, we DO need uninterrupted and long restful sleep!
After reading the recent Time magazine article, The Power of Sleep by Alice Park, it reminded me of what I have been telling my clients for years and have lately fallen prey to: lack of sleep. Sleep has always fascinated me, much like Space does--what is it? what is it doing exactly? why does it take so long? What was its function in evolution and our health-didn't sleep make us more vulnerable to prey? Although another school of thought says our appearance of lifelessness during sleep makes us less vulnerable to prey. Will we eventually evolve to need less of it as we adapt to our busy lifestyles? I may be over thinking this. Needless to say, sleep is essential to our physical and mental health.
The article speaks of how the body takes sleepy time as a detox for the brain. Sleep lowers our risk of metabolic diseases and Alzeimer's disease. Studies have also shown that proper sleep (about 8 hours) increases our cognitive skills while the lack of it increases cortisol which promotes fat storage and lowers our emotional tolerance (which mean it makes us snippy, angry and less able to handle day to day stress.)
Biochemistry has taught us how hunger and satiety hormones are influenced by lack of sleep. Neural biology has taught us that the brain needs rest and not giving its due will lead to depression and anxiety as well. So what is our sleep malfunction? Well, as New Yorkers, we have convinced ourselves that the more hours we are awake the more functional we are, we feel the need to do everything and be everywhere and feel productive all the time--whatever that means! I would love to slow down-but only if you do first! My mother said I was born with ice in my pockets (it is cuter when she says it in Italian) and its her way of saying that I can't sit still--well apparently I can't sleep still either. So if you are like me, try these tips below:
Here are the culprit that are aiding our lack of shut-eye:
Too many lights- when the sun goes down so should we! But we keep lights on (this throws off our Circadian rhythms), watch tv and look at our phones-so start dimming lights close to bedtime and get phones out of your room.
Working out too close to bed-if you can't get exercise during morning or day then shift your activity to a brisk walk only in the evening.
Alcohol is a depressant, it will put you to sleep but will wake you up in the middle of the night and cause a restless sleep
Caffeine takes up to 10 hours to metabolize out of your system-keep this in mind when you have you 4pm coffee fix.
Food and Sleep:
Don't go to bed hungry
If digestion keep you up--keep fibrous foods (vegetables-high fiber cereals) to a minimum before bed- in other words, you will fart yourself awake.
Drinking warm milk does work or you can have it cold-- it has tryptophan an amino acid also found in turkey- that has a sedative effect. All dairy works and as an added benefit, the calcium also regulates melatonin-a natural sleep aid.
Sugar keeps you up, so make your evening snacks high in lean protein: 1 slice cheese, turkey slices, yogurt, hardboiled eggs
Magnesium filled foods promote muscle relaxation so try a banana, avocado, almonds, pumpkin seeds.