Scientists do not understand everything about why sleep is good for us. There is overwhelming data on why not getting enough sleep can kill you. Driving without enough sleep, increases your chances of getting into a car crash. In 2015 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. These numbers are underestimated and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers. The CDC reported, an estimated 1 in 25 adult drivers (aged 18 years or older) reported having fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. That’s a lot of people who are asleep at the wheel. An obvious question is, why don’t we just stay awake until we get home?
Without food, water, and proper shelter you can die. Sleep is more precious than any of these. No matter how hard you try to keep burning that candle at both ends, your body will fall asleep. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing. If your body is sleep deprived while you’re in the biggest job interview of you life – you will fall asleep. Nothing you can do about it. That’s how much more important sleep is to your health and well being.
Causing car wrecks due to drowsy driving is an obvious result of being sleep deprived, but what about other health factors that don’t involve your face smashing, at 70 miles per hour, into a windshield? To start, sleep deprivation is a serious factor when it comes to high blood pressure, depression obesity, and inflammation. In short, the longer that you are awake, the more you need sleep.
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Optimal healthy sleep pattern are vitally important to our mental and physical health as we get older. Good sleep helps to lower blood pressure, wards off depression, improves long term memory, and helps with weight loss and obesity. Consistent sleep also helps repair damaged cells, builds muscle, and improves your sex drive.
Is it true that humans need less sleep as we get older? Yes and no. According to the sleep foundation toddlers need between 9 and 16 hours of sleep. Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours. As an adult either approaching 40 or older your 7 to 9 hours seems like the blink of an eye in comparison. The best rule of thumb is to shoot for 8 hours, and stay consistent.
Some individuals profess to be able to function on 5 or even 4 hours of sleep. I wonder about the viability of such an extreme deficit. Issues such as hypertension, mood disorders, and inflammation in your body are all improved by proper sleep.
This topic is personally important to me. My own experience with improving the quality of my sleep, and my night time sleep routine have yielded surprising results. That’s why the month of May is dedicated to SLEEP.
When I first started working with my health and nutrition coach the first thing she did was to have me journal about my sleep patterns and my bed time routine. What she uncovered for me was only surpassed by the positive effects of following her advice. I lost weight, lowered my blood pressure, and I even got a little boost in my testosterone production.
If you’re struggling with depression, mid day energy crashes, obesity, or high blood pressure, you might want to take a look at your sleep patterns. Too often people end up on too much caffeine, sleeping pills, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, and other high powered medications, when all they have to really do is change some fundamental habits.
In the weeks to come I’ll be posting information about what good sleep is and how to get it. Please leave your information on the contact form for up to date information on sleep, and other health related topics.