When discussing health and longevity, most medical experts highlight the need for a healthy diet and the need for a regular exercise regimen. Too many of those experts fail to address the central importance of sleep. Yet, think about this fact. All of us can last for a couple of days without drinking, eating, or exercise. None of us can last for more than a few days without sleep. Lack of sleep can kill faster than starvation. Sleep is that crucial.
Consider this point. All species are primarily focused on survival. But every species sleeps every day. In short, sleep in nonnegotiable. Scientists are discovering that reduced sleep compromises every system, including our brain, our heart, and especially our immune system. Poor / reduced / fragmented sleep leads to heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and early death. Plus, it increases our risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – the cause for 1/3 of deaths in seniors.
There is another little-known fact. Poor / reduced / fragmented sleep is known to be a trigger – and one of the early symptoms – of depression, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other anxiety disorders. Since depression is becoming the world’s most common worldwide diagnosis, sleep must become more central to everyone’s plan for better health (physical, mental, and emotional) and longer longevity.
Yet, here is our problem. Americans today are sleeping 2 hours less per night than Americans 100 years ago. One third of Americans sleep less than the recommended minimal 7 hours. Too many Americans are staying up past the best hour for going to sleep, 10:00 – 10:30 pm. Too many Americans have not established a consistent routine for the hour of falling asleep. Blame our technology-based workplace. Blame cell phones, social media, and our computers. We need to become smarter.
Benjamin Franklin has a famous quote: “There will be sleeping enough in the grave.” He is DEAD wrong. Sleep should not be considered an unproductive period. Instead, it is one of your body’s most productive periods. Sleep is the critical period when your body repairs DNA, cleans cellular debris, eliminates toxic chemicals, kills cancer cells, and rejuvenates your brain (and its neurochemicals). Do you want to complete one more work project late at night? Or do you want to live?
You also must ask yourself how much do you want to maintain a good mood. Sleep is overnight therapy. Sleep, through your dreams, releases the emotions of the day. The longer the sleep, the greater the soothing effect on those emotions. Your dreams separate emotions from prior events, allowing those emotions to be discarded just as cellular debris is discarded. If you have any mental health concerns, sleep is the most important component of any treatment plan or any self-healing.
Here is the solution. Follow the steps below and you will maximize your sleep and the benefits from sleep. You will reduce your risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. You will reduce your risk of early death or dementia or Alzheimer’s. You will reduce your risk of depression, anxiety, or one of the many mental illnesses. You will improve your mood. You will live longer and better.
- Eat dinner early every night well before going to sleep
- Do not snack before going to sleep
- Avoid alcohol or drugs before going to sleep
- Close all technology 30 minutes before sleep.
- Do not over-utilize sleeping pills (except short-time)
- Aim for a consistent bed time, varying only 30-60 minutes on most nights
- Try to slip into bed by 10:30 pm every night
- Create a target of 7-8 hours per night of sleep
- Do not stay awake in the middle of the night
- Do not snack in the middle of the night
- Wake up to something better than a jarring alarm
- Eat breakfast later, not right away
- Expand your hours between dinner and breakfast
- Nap only when sleep deprived
Try these steps for 6 months …
You will feel physically, mentally, and emotionally better …
You will also be primed for better health and greater longevity …
By 6 months, these steps will be ingrained habits …
You will be ready to truly enjoy all of life …