THE BODY – Sweet Slumber

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How Much Do We Need And Why Can’t We Get Enough?

Ah, the blissful slumbers of sleep. Whether you’re a CEO, a librarian, entrepreneur or stay-at-home mom, we all need sleep, but for some, a restful night can be an elusive thing. When it comes to sleep, what is enough? Often times, falling asleep at a consistent time is hard enough with juggling schedules and extra stimulation from late-night email checks and TV watching. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep, a number that seems almost impossible for the average working woman. Additionally, Dr. Jim Horne, Professor of Psychophysiology and Director of the Sleep Research Center at the University of Loughborough says that women need at least 20 more minutes of sleep than men, because women “tend to multi-task and use more of their actual brain than men leading to a greater need for sleep.”

Tips to Increase Sleep

Schedule: Keep a regular sleep schedule.

Diet: Eat dinner earlier in the evening and avoid alcohol, caffeine or heavy foods after 7 p.m., or eat smaller plates throughout the day.

Calm: Enjoy calming activities before bed such as reading a book or taking a warm bath.

Tech-free: Turn off all electronics at least 20 minutes before bed. Yes, your emails can wait until morning.

Cool Off: Make sure your room is kept at a comfortable temperature (most people sleep best in rooms around 65°F).

Low Light: Control the lighting in your bedroom. Opt for dimmers to display soft light in the room, making you feel sleepy.

Clean: Change your sheets once a week. Dust mites and other allergens can build up, causing restless sleep.

Declutter: Keep your bedroom décor simple. Soft, muted colors are best and avoid creating extra piles of clutter.

Longer work days, juggling multiple responsibilities and missing out on crucial sleep can have a debilitating effect our lives. The use of sleep aids – both natural and prescription – have increased over the last 10 years.

But while the short-term solution for sleep may involve a pill, the need for sleep is real and has a measured effect on our daily lives, how we retain memories and how we look and feel better.

Why we always feel tired

According to a 2013 sleep survey conducted by The Better Sleep Council, 48% of Americans reported that they do not get enough sleep. More women (53%) than men (44%) reported that they are not getting enough sleep.

Sleep: The Magic Elixir

Though scientists have studied sleep for decades, they have not been able to come up with a clear conclusion on why we need sleep. What we do know is that during sleep, our bodies recharge and restore the energy supply that was depleted throughout our day-to-day activities.

lunaSleep also strengthens our memories. Penelope Lewis, Director of the Sleep and Memory Lab at the University of Manchester in England, explains this process as a “spontaneous replay” and consolidatation of our memories. “Suppose you are learning to play the piano … you’re moving your fingers a lot. That’s associated with responses in motor areas of your brain. … Those areas will become active again while you’re asleep, and that replay — or reactivation — is what we think is responsible for the strengthening. So it’s kind of like your brain is rehearsing stuff without you knowing, while you’re asleep.” That’s why sleep is critical to remembering what you learned and experienced during the day.

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