Healthy Habit: Sleep


Make an appointment with your bed!

Let’s talk about one of my favorite topics and hobbies  – sleep! It’s painless, free, and it helps with weight loss!

Healthy sleep is one of the main pillars of health, wellness, and longevity, yet most people don’t get nearly enough. In fact, two thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended average eight hours of sleep every night.

Specific sleep habits can help you get the restorative rest you need. Making sleep a priority and putting in consistent effort is essential for these habits to take hold and improve your overall health, so stick with good sleep hygiene.

Here are my 5 favorite healthy sleep habits that might help change your sleep this week:

  1. Go to bed and get up around the same time each day, including weekends, to get your body into a rhythm. Your sleep goal is about  8 hours per night – do the math!
  2. Get your body clock running on time. Consistent meal times help keep blood sugar levels steady and bodily functions running on schedule. Consume your largest meal for lunch and have a lighter dinner.
  3. Clean any clutter from your bedroom and make it quiet, dark, and cool.
  4. Avoid caffeine past the early afternoon.  Caffeine has an average half-life of 5-7 hours. Also, be aware that “de-caffeinated” doesn’t mean “un-caffeinated.
  5. Remove all electronics including a television from your bedroom.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that one third of US adults are not getting the recommended amount of sleep. Insufficient sleep is linked with many chronic diseases and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.

The two most common sleep disorders are:

  1. Sleep deprivation: giving oneself an inadequate opportunity to sleep (staying up too late, getting up too early, not allowing the 8+ recommended hours of sleep.
  1. Insomnia: suffering from an inadequate ability to sleep even when allowing 8 hours in bed (there’s a difference between sleep “onset”  insomnia – not able to fall asleep at the beginning of the night – and sleep “maintenance”  insomnia, the difficulty staying asleep. For a long time, I was mostly dealing with the latter.)

Getting enough sleep is not a luxury, it is essential for good health.

Sleep benefits:

  1. 7-9 hours is recommended, non negotiable: 8 hours average of sleep. You cannot catch up on lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekend.
  2. Sleep is the Swiss Army Knife of life/ health. Sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity.
  3. Sleep is blood pressure medication.
  4. “Prescription sleep” – it is painless, enjoyable and free.
  5. Sleep is mental and emotional First Aid.
  6. Numerous functions of the brain are restored by, and depend upon, sleep. Sleep enriches a diversity of functions, including our ability to learn, memorize, make logical decisions and choices.
  7. Sleep acts like a nighttime “power cleanse”, which helps “wash away” the buildup of beta-amyloid (a toxic form of protein) plaques in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.
  8. Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.

For more information regarding health problems due to lack of sleep, sleep benefits, and the connection between sleep and school and sleep and work performance, check out my eBook Better Health for Busy People where I describe my struggle with sleep and how I have been able to improve it. I also describe in detail which sleep habits might be helpful, which apps are becoming more popular, and the take on prescription sleeping pills and alcohol.

With Dr. Matt Walker, sleep specialist, author of Why We Sleep, and founder of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and my friend Meiying Forney after one of Dr. Walker’s engaging and interesting lectures in Berkeley.