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Sleep: The great reset

April 16, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Adequate sleep supports our immune system and bodily functions like hormone release, metabolism, and appetite. - Submitted photo

Alison Crane

Lullabies ... Dreams ... REM ... Circadian rhythms ... Brain fog ... Bedtime stories ...

When I was in college, my roommate and I decided to try setting up a bedtime routine to help us go to sleep faster. We would both do everything needed for bed. Once we were both ready, one of us would hit play on our favorite Steve Green cassette (Yes, I am dating myself.) and we would say goodnight while turning off our lamps and settling into bed. After just a few weeks of following this routine, both of us would be asleep within a song or two almost every night. This worked great for helping us get to sleep, except for years afterward I could not listen to any songs on that album without getting sleepy.

Sleep is the great reset our bodies need every day for optimal functioning. Unfortunately, most people are not getting enough sleep. On average more than one-third of U.S. adults sleep less than seven hours per night, according to the National Library of Medicine. Sleep is our body's way of restoring itself and is essential for development at all stages of life.

Physical and emotional health is reliant on whether we have had enough rest. Studies indicate that the spaces between the cells in our brains increase during sleep which allows better fluid flow to remove toxins that build up while we are awake. These are some of the same toxins that accumulate in the brain of Alzheimer's patients. Sleep also affects our ability to learn and store memories, as well as our moods. Lack of sleep can increase the likelihood of seizures, high blood pressure and make migraines worsen.

Adequate sleep supports our immune system and bodily functions like hormone release, metabolism, and appetite. Sleep expert and neurologist, Mark Wu, M.D., Ph.D., has shared that our bodies are so sensitive to sleep that missing one night of sleep can create a prediabetic state even in healthy people. Not enough sleep is also linked to a higher risk of obesity in both children and adults.

Since sleep is vitally important to our overall health, we need to cultivate healthy sleep habits or "sleep hygiene" as it is called. Many people struggle with insomnia or other sleep disorders and establishing a bedtime routine is one of the top suggestions to improving sleep.

Here are four of the most recommended tips for establishing healthy sleep habits:

Create a comfortable and peaceful sleep environment, including keeping the room at a cool temperature.

Maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule -- even on weekends by getting up and going to bed at the same time.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that can interfere with sleep starting in the afternoon to early evening.

Turn off electric devices 30 minutes before bed and do not sleep with your screens set on a blue light.

Since sleep is so connected to our mental and physical health, it just makes sense to take steps to improve or maintain our slumber time.

For local programs and information on sleep and other health issues for the working woman, contact the Garland County Extension Service at 501-623-6841 or email [email protected]. Alison Crane is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Garland County Cooperative Extension Service.

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