Lifestyle – Rest

Nightly sleep—a rest vitamin. Many people want to sleep as little as possible. There are so many things that seem more interesting or important than getting a few more hours of sleep. But just as exercise and nutrition are essential for optimal health and happiness, so is sleep. The quality of sleep directly affects the quality of the waking time. There is no other activity that delivers so many benefits with so little effort!

Sleep is regulated by the circadian rhythm, which is affected by the rays of the sun. The sunlight that enters through the eye helps develop chemicals in the body that encourage the feeling of, and need for, sleep in a cyclic pattern of about every 24 hours. Nightly sleep is most vital for the brain and especially the frontal lobe. With adequate sleep the frontal lobe can function with greater speed, greater accuracy, and greater efficiency. An understanding of how to maximize the benefits from sleep is not only important for physical health but also spiritual health.

The required amount of sleep needed varies per individual. One factor in determining this is age. Infants need the most sleep and usually require about 16 to 18 hours per day, while teenagers need, on average, around 9 hours per day. Most adults need around 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Despite popular thought, people do not seem to adapt to getting less sleep than they need.

There is a big difference between the amount of sleep you can get by with, and the amount you need to function optimally. The best way to figure out if you’re meeting your sleep needs is to evaluate how you feel as you go about your day. If you are logging enough hours, you’ll feel energetic and alert all day long, from the moment you awake until your regular bedtime.

Many problems can result from being sleep deprived. At least 40 million Americans each year suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems.

While it may seem like losing sleep isn’t such a big deal, sleep deprivation has a wide range of negative effects. These include:

  • Fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Reduced creativity and problem-solving skills and the ability to cope with stress
  • Reduced immunity; frequent colds and infections
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Weight gain
  • Impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems
  • The following are signs that you may be sleep deprived:
  • Need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time
  • Rely on the snooze button
  • Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
  • Feel sluggish in the afternoon
  • Get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
  • Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving
  • Need to nap to get through the day
  • Fall asleep while watching television or relaxing in the evening
  • Feel the need to sleep in on weekends
  • Fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed

While you can’t pay off sleep debt in a night or even a weekend, with a little effort and planning, you can get back on track:

  • Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Make sure you don’t fall further in debt by blocking off a minimum of 8 hours for sleep each night. Consistency is the key.
  • Settle short-term sleep debt with an extra hour or two per night.
  • Record when you go to bed, when you get up, your total hours of sleep, and how you feel during the day. As you keep track of your sleep, you’ll discover your natural patterns and get to know your sleep needs.
  • Pick a two-week period when you have a flexible schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and allow yourself to sleep until you wake up naturally. No alarm clocks! If you continue to keep the same bedtime and wake up naturally, you’ll eventually dig your way out of debt and arrive at the sleep schedule that’s ideal for you.
  • Make sleep a priority. Just as you schedule time for work and other commitments, you should schedule enough time for sleep. Instead of cutting back on sleep in order to tackle the rest of your daily tasks, put sleep at the top of your to-do list.
  • The following principles improve sleep:
  • Sleep in a dark, quiet, cool room with fresh air throughout the night
  • Be regular in your hours of sleep
  • Experience daily exercise
  • Go to bed on an empty stomach
  • Avoid stimulants, drugs, sleeping pills
  • Eliminate alcohol, tobacco, nicotine and caffeine
  • Develop proper relationships with man and God
  • Establish regular times for going to sleep and rising
  • Your deepest and best sleep is between 9:00 p.m.–midnight.