How did you sleep last night? If you are like most Americans, maybe not well. I haven’t been sleeping as well as usual due to my knee. I wake up every few hours. It’s having an impact on my attitude, memory and my days in general. Though improving, I know the poor sleep has impacted my body and mind.
Americans generally don’t get enough sleep to the point it has been called it a national epidemic. Locally, greater than 27% of adults in southeastern WI report insufficient sleep. Interuppted sleep can be just as bad as not getting enough sleep.
A study done on Gulf war vets noted that poor sleep quality was associated with reduced gray matter volume throughout the brain. Reduced volume in your brain means less brain cells functioning to help you remember, make decisions or think well.
Another study just out demonstrated that men over 50 with self-reported sleep disturbances have a 1.5 times higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as those without sleep disturbances. Sleep insufficiency can lead to the onset of chronic diseases, motor vehicle or work related accidents and decreased efficiency.
Why aren’t we sleeping? There are many reasons, including lifestyle and ever present technology, medical issues, medication side effects and/or sleep disorders. I believe what impacts many adults and specifically women is sometimes we can’t stop thinking.
Whether we are worried, concerned, excited or overwhelmed, the fact is we need to sleep for our brains to function well. During sleep an essential process of memory consolidation takes place. Our memories from the day are reviewed, stored, organized, disposed of or cross-referenced while we sleep. If this process doesn’t occur or is interrupted, our minds cannot function properly.
You know the feeling of not being able to think straight after you don’t sleep well? It is because you literally can’t think straight! There’s too much excess build up in your brain from the previous day. Your brain didn’t have enough time to clean up and organize from poor sleep. Conversely, have you ever gone to bed while contemplating a problem and upon awakening, you know the solution? Your brain had the necessary time while you slept to process the solution.
There’s so much more to sleep and your brain, but just know this:
Your brain and body need to sleep. It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity, like good blood pressure or heart rate. Sleep well and be productive, attentive, loving and caring.
Here are a few of the tips I share with my clients:
- Adults on average need 7-8 hours of good sleep, kids need even more
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule even on weekends
- Limit electronics in your bedroom, ideally keep them out entirely
- Wind down in the evening to promote sleep
- Daytime exercise promotes sleep, but may impair sleep if done just prior to bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine, large meals and alcohol close to bedtime.
If you still can’t sleep because you’re thinking too much, what I have found most helpful is what David did when surrounded by his enemy: he prayed. I give all my concerns, worries and thoughts to God. He can do something about it all and I need to sleep. I give it to Him and let it go. Then, as David says in Psalm 3:5:
I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.
Sleep-it’s good for your body, your attitude, your brain and your memory!