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Are You Sleeping Well?

October 14, 2020


Apparently the good old U.S. is a nation of “not great” sleepers. Really? And I thought I was the only one! According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it was revealed that one out of three Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. Yikes!

“Consistent, restful sleep is one of the most effective ways to manage good health, reduce stress and boost memory and productivity,” says Sara Mednick, Ph.D., associate professor of cognitive science at the University of California. I came across this comment in a fascinating article written by Leslie Goldman that appeared in Better Homes & Gardens of March 2020.

Sleeping Study and Quiz

Are Your Sleep Habits Subpar?

Take this quick quiz to find out – then read on for science-backed tips and tools to make the most of those precious hours of shut-eye.

1 How often do you snack?

A Mainly after dinner
B Throughout the day and I often crave sugary stuff
C When I do snack, it’s usually something healthy between meals

If you answered A or B, poor sleep may be throwing your hunger hormones out of whack

When you don’t get good sleep, levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone “ghrelin” rise and levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone “leptin” fall. One study found that getting only five hours of sleep a night over the course of one week, led to a two-pound gain.

“When you’re sleep-deprived, your body acts like it’s in a mild state of stress,” Mednick says. “It spurs you to reach for foods with sugar that provide quick energy.” (I think we’ve all been there – done this one.)

2 My memory is……

A Sharp as ever
B I feel fuzzy-minded a lot of the time
C I often struggle to recall words and forget where I put my keys

If you answered B or C, your memory is begging for better sleep

“Sleep deprivation has a strong affect on the brain, especially the ‘prefrontal cortex’ the area that’s responsible for language, word selection and memory,” Mednick says. “It’s not uncommon for people to notice words slipping their mind on six hours of sleep.”

3 If I’m being honest, my mood can often be described as……

A Sad
B Short-tempered
C Anxious
D None of the above

If you answered A, B or C, poor sleep may be worsening your mood

The regions of the brain tied to mood – the “amygdala” and “prefrontal cortex” are adversely impacted by poor sleep. The “prefrontal cortex” is like the CEO of the brain – it controls the “amygdala” according to Mednick.

She goes on to explain that with less-than-ideal rest the CEO can’t control the “amygdala” – so it will lean more towards negative thoughts and the result is a moodier individual.

Tips for Good Nights Ahead

ONE: Choose a few wind-down activities such as listening to soft music and have a cup of chamomile tea (made from the chamomile flower – it may lower the risk of heart disease or cancer). The key to an effective wind-down routine is doing the same things each night. This tells your body that it’s time to get tired and go to sleep.

TWO: For those with traditional schedules, that’s between 9:30 and 10:30 with 11:00 at the latest. This is when much of the slow-wave stage of sleep happens, when your mind and body restore themselves according to Mednick. If you fall asleep at midnight, you’ll miss out on a lot of that stage even if you sleep eight hours.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick


Art is courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

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