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Work On It Wednesday - Get More Sleep!

This week, I'm working on my favorite Work On It Wednesday so far -- getting more sleep! Ahh sleep. Just mentioning the idea makes me smile.

There have long been ideas about how much sleep we need - 6 hours, 8 hours, etc. Conflicting reports tell us that we definitely need more sleep, but make sure not to get too much, or you'll be more prone to diseases! I'm not going to venture into that realm and try to tell you how much to sleep, but I will tell you this - sleep more! On average, Americans sleep one hour less per night than they did just 20 to 30 years ago. This doesn't come at no cost - the healthcare and loss of productivity costs for sleep deprivation are huge.

In this Work On It Wednesday though, we're going to be talking about the health costs. And although these don't cost you actual money (unless you are going to the doctor for your sleep issues, in which case it is probably costing you or your insurance company quite a bit of money) the health costs of not getting enough sleep are enormous.

Most adults need an average of 7-8 hours of sleep per night. That doesn't mean you are going to drop dead if you have a night that you don't get enough, but that is an average, so you should aim to be getting around that much sleep every night. Sleep does some really wonderful things for you including:

1) Keeping your heart healthy - not getting enough sleep has been linked with higher blood pressure and cholesterol, which are both risk factors for heart disease and strokes.

2) Sleep reduces your stress levels - although it can be a cycle where you can't sleep because you are stressed, and you are then more stressed when you haven't slept, getting enough sleep can help to drastically reduce your stress levels. Basically what happens is that when you aren't getting enough sleep, you body kicks into instinct mode, and all of your senses are on high alert. This makes you body produce more stress hormones, which causes an increase in blood pressure (which then increases your risk of heart problems, as noted in #1).

3) Deep sleep may help your body to release growth hormone (HGH) - although we've heard all kinds of crazy stories about people who take growth hormone synthetically (and how bad for you that is), the natural kind that your body produces is actually very good for you, particularly if you are trying to lose weight. HGH is the hormone that is responsible for helping the body to burn stored fat, so we definitely don't want to skimp on our production of that!

4) Sleep helps your productivity - Again, often times this can be a cycle. You don't sleep and your productivity suffers, so then you stay up all night worrying about all the things you need to get done. However, if you can break out of the cycle (tips on that coming later in the post), you productivity is much higher when you get a great nights sleep.

5) Sleep helps you lose weight - In addition to helping your body to release HGH, sleep also helps your body regulate the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone responsible for helping you to feel satiated, and ghrelin increases your hunger. According to Master Your Metabolism just two nights of not getting enough sleep will cut your leptin levels by about 20 percent, and increase your ghrelin levels by about 30 percent, so the next day you feel significantly hungrier (and unable to fulfill your cravings) after a night of bad sleep.

So now we know all the wonderful reasons that we should get enough sleep every night, but you're still having trouble getting enough? Here are some hints to help you along:

  • Ask Dad - If you have young children or babies, and you have a partner who is able to handle some of the tasks, there isn't any reason why you should be constantly exhausted. Ask for help! I know as women often times we have trouble with this, but you don't want to be sacrificing your health and wellness just because you don't want to ask for help. Your babies need you healthy, so do what you need to do to be healthy!
  • Keep the noise quiet - if you have loud neighbors, barking dogs in your neighborhood (the bane of my existence!), or other loud noises around when you are trying to sleep, consider getting something to block out the noise. Be it ear plugs, a white noise machine, or my personal preference - a window unit air conditioner (in addition to being cooler, it is a wonderful noise machine!) do something to block out the noise so that you aren't constantly being interrupted.
  • Get more exercise - I know it sounds counterintuitive, because if you are exhausted the last thing you want to do is go work out, but getting more exercise can help you clear you mind and also help you to sleep more restfully. 
  • Relax - Meditate, take a bath, sit and read an entertaining book, etc. Try to avoid hectic activities, intense conversations, or arguing before bed. Take the last 30 minutes or so before climbing into bed to really wind down and relax your body and mind. You could even do something like rocking your child so that you can clear your mind and really unwind. 
  • Check the temperature - make sure it is not too hot or too cold in your room. You want it Goldilocks' style - just right! =)
  • Set a bedtime - It doesn't have to be rigid. After all, we are adults, but try to get to bed around the same time every night. Your body functions best on a routine, and doing this helps your body to expect sleep at a certain time every night, thus helping you to fall asleep at that time.

I can't wait to get starting working on this Work On It Wednesday! I love getting some sleep, so I'm going to make it a special priority this week to get into bed at a reasonable hour so that I can get in my eight hours a night! What are you going to do to make sure you get more sleep? Put the kids to bed earlier, turn off the TV, practice meditation? I would love to hear from you!


  1. Hi Lauren! What a lovely spot you have! I am a RFM blogroll member like you, and I really enjoyed your work on it wednesday about sleep! I have an article on insomnia that might be of help at my blog: http://amoderatelife.com/2010/05/my-post-is-late-because-i-couldnt-sleep-last-night-insomnia-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/ I grabbed your feed and followed you! Take care! Alex.

  2. Hi Alex! Thanks for reading! I read your article on insomnia, and you have some great tips too! I love your site. I'll definitely be back to participate in the recipe carnival. Thanks again for stopping by!

  3. Chest x-ray: This heart test is a quick and painless procedure where a picture, or an x-ray, will be taken to look at your internal structures of your chest. The chest x-ray will look at your lungs, heart, and ribs.