Sleep expert and President of the American Sleep Research Institute Lynn Larson explains that the link between sleep and decreased longevity is due to the immediate effect lack of sleep has on human performance. Missing sleep leads to poor decision making and affects everything we do: rushing when we should be methodical, forgetting important procedures, loss of attention (such as when driving), not having the energy to exercise, poorer reaction time, higher stress levels, elevated blood pressure, and inability to adapt to change. These things lead to accidents in the short term, and poor health in the long term.
Research at ASRI suggests that the amount and quality of sleep we achieve has profound effects on wellness. Nightly sleep is critical for proper function of: the brain, immune system, endocrine system, digestion, as well as for energy, recovery from injury, and restoration of health. The lifestyle changes explained throughout this website are all intertwined with sleep. Sleep gives us the energy, the will, and the foundation to accomplish these changes.
Approximately 100 million Americans struggle with difficulty sleeping. If you have trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep, there are some “tricks” to improve the situation. To some extent, insomnia can be like the old expression about fear: there is nothing to fear but fear itself. Sometimes, just the fear of not being able to sleep causes enough stress to keep us awake. Don’t worry, these guidelines should help.
- Sleep is like a good meal. It must be at the correct time and well anticipated; it helps to be hungry, the food should look, taste and smell good; your surroundings should be pleasing; and you should have plenty of stress free time to enjoy it. Make your bedroom as inviting as that meal and you will sleep better.
- Don’t look at the clock. Studies have shown that looking at the clock during the night increases insomnia. You will sleep more if you ignore the clock when you wake up during the night.
- Leave work at the office and don’t take it to bed with you.
- If you wake during the night – do not think! Mental distraction is the name of the game. Try counting backwards from 100. The first times that you try this technique you might count from 100 two or more times. It’s OK. Eventually you will fall to sleep at about 95. You are training yourself to stop thinking about problems and to fall to sleep instead. It will take time to learn this good habit.
- No caffeine after dinner. The half life of caffeine is about four hours.
- Alcohol makes you doze off quickly, but after it metabolizes it will interrupt sleep later in the night.