In our world where there seems to be a million and one things to do and we are always wishing for more hours in the day, sleep can be a distant concept. We are over-worked, over-tired and stressed. I think this applies to people across a wide range of ages. Our stresses change but sleep can also seem hard to come by as we approach our retirement years. Having to go to the bathroom wakes us up, pain makes it hard to fall asleep, medication side effects lead to insomnia… the list can go on.
Did you know that almost 1 in 3 persons over the age of 60 report sleeping less than 7 hours a night?
That seems to be the sweet spot. The amount of sleep most adults need to perform at their best. For some it’s a little more (I’m in the 8-8.5 hour range) and for some it’s a little less.
Sleep is a strange thing because we are only guessing at the reasons why we sleep. What we do know though is that people who get too little sleep are putting their health at risk. This has been a popular subject in the media, especially with the release of Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution, where she recounts breaking her jaw after she fell because of sleep deprivation.
Sleeping too little is bad for your health! A recent review that was published by Gardner and colleagues gives us just a few of the statistics to keep in mind about sleep…
People who sleep too little
• Tend to snack late at night and make bad food choices
• More likely to be overweight
• More risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke
• 30-50% more likely to have diabetes
• Drink more
• Smoke more
• Have less attention and focus
This is a pretty extensive list!!
So sleeping too little puts stress on our body – stress we don’t need.
There are periods in our lives where sleeping too little just can’t be avoided. Work and family obligations come up and there is nothing we can do about it (just ask a new mom!). But we can take steps to try to improve our sleep and by extension improve the health of our heart and our body.
Here are 3 things we can do tonight to start getting the 7 hours of sleep we need.
1. Plan your bed time like you would plan anything else in your day. Just like you wouldn’t miss an appointment, make it a point to plan when you are going to sleep so that you feel more accountability to stick to the plan
2. Turn the screens off or even better leave them out of the room. If you get an email late at night or you’re answering messages right until lights out, you don’t wind down and it makes it harder to fall asleep
3. Stick to a schedule. This can be hard on the weekends, but I try to have the same schedule of going to bed and getting up during the week AND on the weekends (dogs who don’t know the difference between a weekend and weekday make this a little bit easier!).
Putting a focus on getting the right amount of sleep helps you stay alert and attentive the rest of the day.
Plus it keeps your heart healthy!
Grandner, M. A., Alfonso-Miller, P., Fernandez-Mendoza, J., Shetty, S., Shenoy, S., & Combs, D. (2016). Sleep: Important considerations for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Current Opinion in Cardiology, doi:10.1097/HCO.0000000000000324 [doi]