Much has been written on the vital function sleep plays in our lives. But if sleep is so essential for a person's health and wellbeing, why is it that so many of us never seem to have enough?
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), a non-profit dedicated to improving sleep health and safety through education, public awareness, and advocacy, millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. Surveys conducted by the NSF found at least 40 million Americans suffer from more than 70 different sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more.
Spending more time between the sheets may also be the secret to slimming down and looking great. "Many do not realize that skimping on sleep can actually make it harder to lose weight." says Meir H. Kryger, MD, chairman of NSF's board of directors. "Research suggests that even a modest amount of sleep deprivation can increase appetite by altering the behavior of the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which are responsible for regulating metabolism. People may experience stronger cravings for carbohydrates and calorie-rich comfort foods such as cookies and chips."
There are simple rules to getting a good night's sleep. Most important, according to the NSF, is to set and stick to a sleep schedule. In other words, go to bed and wake up at the same times each day.
Next, make it a habit of exposing yourself to bright light in the morning and avoid it at night. Exposure to bright morning light energizes us and prepares us for a productive day. Alternatively, avoid exposure to bright light late at night. Dim your lights when it's close to bedtime, and put night lights in your halls and bathroom for nighttime awakenings.
Those chasing better sleep need to exercise regularly. Exercise in the morning can help you get the light exposure you need to set your biological clock. And if you're having problems sleeping, avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime.
Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. This means allowing enough time to wind down and relax before going to bed. Avoid caffeinated beverages, chocolate and tobacco at night, and try to avoid large meals and beverages right before bedtime. Since we're on the subject of eating and drinking, skip the nightcap. Drinking alcohol before bed can rob you of the deep sleep, and it can cause you to wake too early.
As sleep plays a vital function in our lives, bedrooms play a vital part in getting a good night's sleep. "Love your bedroom and make it the best place you can" suggest David Cloud, chief executive officer of the NSF. "We spend a third of our lives in our bedrooms, so make it a sanctuary for your sleep. Comfort, fresh air, quietness and cool temperature are the basic building blocks for creating the best sleep environment."
Author, designer, and star of makeover television Libby Langdon offers these tips for making the bedroom a more restful place. "Adding fabric to your walls can soften your space and create the feel of an intimate haven - perfect and peaceful," Langdon says. "Fabric helps baffle sound and it's easy (and inexpensive) to add to your walls using a staple gun. Once it's mounted, over the staples with ribbon or any trim of your choice using hot glue. Or, if you want to use fabric on one really small wall, such as one between two beams, you can even use a heavy curtain and hang it with tension rods between the two beams. Unlike wallpaper, fabric is easily removable when you want a change!"
Also, Langdon notes, for those seeking a designer look without the designer price tag, a "fast and inexpensive way to cozy up your bedroom and give it the feeling of a quiet little haven is to hang two 96" drapery panels up to the ceiling on the wall behind your bed. You can choose any fabric you like, soft rich velvet, a bright silk or brocade. Hanging the drapes all the way to the ceiling visually tricks the eye-making the ceiling seem higher and your room feel larger. When Spring comes, change the fabric to something airier, or just take the drapes down altogether."
The good news is that "taking special care to make your bedroom pleasing to you can actually make a difference in how you feel about sleep overall," says Cloud. In a recent NSF poll, more than three-fourths of Americans (78%) said that they are more excited to go to bed on sheets with a fresh scent. About seven in ten Americans (71%) said they get a more comfortable night's sleep on sheets with a fresh scent. It also appears Mom was right when she told us to make our beds. Poll respondents who said they make their bed every day were 19% more likely to say they get a good nights' sleep every night than those who don't.
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