Sleep is good for the body in more ways than one may think

Pam Dudding
Contributing writer

The word sleep is defined as, “a condition of body and mind such as that which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed and consciousness practically suspended.”

Today, the normal pattern of sleep has taken a back seat to many things in life.

The most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that a large majority of Craig County High School students reported not getting enough sleep using National Sleep Foundation (NSF) guidelines. “Seven out of every ten Craig County high school youth reported getting seven hours or less of sleep every night while the NSF says that teens require at least eight hours of nightly sleep,” J.D. Carlin of the Craig County Prevention Planning Team (CPPT) said. “This may not seem like a big deal, but it is actually a massive problem that affects teens, and the rest of us, in many different ways.”

Carlin continued: “According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), not getting enough sleep can affect healthy brain function and emotional health, physical health, daytime work and safety.”

·Brain function and emotional health – Not getting enough sleep has been shown to hurt decision-making and affect how we control our emotions and our ability to deal with change. Research has also shown links between lack of sleep and depression and suicide. Teens that do not get enough sleep may struggle with mood swings, feel sad or depressed and struggle to pay attention, which can lower academic success.

·Physical health – Ongoing shortages of sleep have been linked with a lot of different health issues including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. For teens, lack of sleep is also linked with increasing rates of obesity.

·Daytime work and safety – People who consistently do not get enough sleep may reach a point where they function similar to someone who has not slept for a full day or more. Even a shortage of one to two hours a night can result in a person being less productive at work or school. These people take longer to do tasks, make more mistakes and have slower reaction times.

The CCPT team added, “The science is clear. Most of us are not getting enough sleep. It is hurting us in many different ways. Physically, mentally, financially and more. So, what can we do to get the sleep our bodies need?”

·Build a consistent schedule of when you go to bed and when you get up. Keep it the same for weekdays and weekends, as best you can.

·Take between 30 and 60 minutes before bed to prepare to sleep. Avoid bright lights and strenuous workouts. Use this time to brush your teeth, put younger family members to bed and do some reading of your choice.

·Avoid large, heavy meals and alcohol for at least two hours prior to bed. Nicotine and caffeine should be avoided for longer time periods prior to sleep as they are both stimulants and can make falling asleep difficult.

·Try to spend some time outside every day. Being physically active will also help you sleep. Even a 20-minute walk with a family member or your dog will show a positive impact on your sleep quality.

·Set up your bedroom for quality sleep. It should be quiet, cool and dark. Difficult as it can be for some, avoid watching TV in bed. Not only does that take away from the amount we sleep, but it also impacts the quality of our sleep.

Science has only recently begun fully exploring the importance of sleep on our bodies and our health,” Carlin added. “As more is learned, we are discovering that sleep is one of the most important things we do to stay healthy. And that sleep is right up there with nutrition and exercise in being healthy.”

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