By Anita Motwani, COO Nidra Sleep Masks
Did you know that you spend a third of your life sleeping? While it may sound hard to believe, the Population Reference Bureau study boldly states that “sleep may be as important to health in old age as diet and exercise.” It’s no exaggeration to say that sleep is as vital to your survival as food, water, and air.
Like many, you have probably experienced being grumpy or irritable the day after a night of poor sleep. Studies have found that even a single night of insufficient sleep can harm our emotional, physical, and cognitive performances. Peter Attila, a longevity expert, documents in his book Outlive that athletes who sleep poorly the night before a competition experience a drop in endurance, VO2 max, and one-rep-max strength––and they become more prone to injuries. This just goes to show the impact is astonishingly quick!
Now, imagine the ramifications of chronic insufficient sleep. It’s associated with a multitude of serious health issues, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, dementia, infection, inflammation, depression, and other mental health disorders. It’s even correlated with an increased risk of falls, which can be particularly devastating for older adults. The dangers of inadequate sleep are alarmingly real.
Recent research by the University of Chicago delves into the cellular-level consequences of sleep deprivation. It elevates insulin, triglycerides, and ghrelin, leaving us feeling hungrier while simultaneously decreasing levels of leptin, which control the sensation of fullness. It’s a vicious cycle for hormonal balance and our overall health.
Adding insult to injury, the ability to obtain deep sleep declines with age. So, how much sleep do you really need? The magic number is between 7 and 8.5 hours of sleep per night. Straying too far from this ideal range can have detrimental effects in the long run. And here’s the catch––there’s no magic pill to solve this predicament. While sleeping pills may help you fall asleep, they fail to provide the deep sleep needed to counteract these issues. Instead, prioritizing sleep and adopting healthy sleep habits are paramount.
Let’s explore 10 transformative tips for achieving optimal sleep:
- Keep Track of Your Sleep: Embrace technology with tools like the Oura Ring or an Apple Watch to monitor and understand your sleep patterns. This can help you understand how you are currently sleeping, and help set goals.
- Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene: Establish a consistent bedtime schedule and routine. Following the same pre-sleep and wake-up rituals creates a sense of predictability that your body craves for a restful state.
- Create a Pro-Sleep Environment: Make your bedroom a sleep haven that’s dark, quiet, and the ideal temperature––a cool 65 degrees F. Remove the invasive presence of alarm clocks and disruptive LED lights. Stop using electronics and screens at least two hours before bed. Remember, the content you consume before bed matters. Social media or the news might create unnecessary stress or anxiety.
- Build Sleep Pressure: Creating sleep pressure involves engaging in activities that naturally induce tiredness. Limit your total hours in bed to 7.5 to 8 hours, encouraging your body to recognize the time for sleep. Resist daytime napping, as it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night. And a healthy dose of exercise earlier in the day will aid in building sleep pressure.
- Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol: Watch your caffeine intake as its effects can linger in your body for up to six hours, potentially disrupting your sleep. As for alcohol, while it might help you doze off initially, it often leads to fragmented sleep.
- Embrace the Sunlight and Exercise: Harness the power of natural light during the day to activate your circadian rhythms. Engage in daily exercise, which not only keeps you fit but also helps tire you out by evening. Remember to avoid exercising right before bedtime, as it can leave you feeling more energized instead of relaxed.
- Spa Out Before Bed: Take a luxurious hot bath, shower, or sauna before bedtime. As your body cools down, that’s a sleep signal to your body.
- Cultivate Bedtime Mindfulness: Prioritize relaxation and inner calm as part of your sleep hygiene. Incorporate meditation into your bedtime routine, gently guiding each part of your body to surrender to sleep. Various meditation apps are available to assist you.
- Unlock the Power of Sleep Accessories: Discover sleep-enhancing products that can help. The Nidra Sleep Mask, highly recommended by the New York Times Wirecutter, provides optimal darkness and comfort. Hatch.co offers an array of sleeping products for young children and adults.
- Don’t Stress About It: Lastly, let go of your worries about sleep. Stressing about sleep is counterproductive. Instead, trust in the power of these tips and techniques to improve your sleep quality. Find peace knowing you are taking positive steps towards resting through the night.
Sleep is critical to aging well and living a long healthy life. By understanding the profound impact of sleep on your overall health and well-being, you can prioritize deep sleep.
Anita Motwani is the COO of Nidra Sleep Masks. She took over Nidra Sleep Masks after her sister, Mona Motwani who is the founder of Nidra, died suddenly about 1 1/2 years ago. Anita hopes to carry out Mona’s mission to help everyone get a good night’s sleep and live a long and healthy life!
Throughout the “Top Priorities” section of this blog, we will provide data-backed insights for a long, active retirement.