Did you know that it has been found that signs of aging in the skin and decrease the skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure is increased with sleep deprivation?  Today is #WorldSleepDay and this year’s theme is “Healthy Sleep, Healthy Aging.” World Sleep Day® which is held the Friday before Spring Vernal Equinox of each year (exact date changes annually, but always on a Friday).  This year March 15th, 2019 will mark the 12th annual international awareness day to celebrate the importance of sleep. Most people are aware that there are physical changes that occur as we get older that include changes to our sleep patterns and is a normal part of the aging process. But, also know that there is the misconception that sleep needs decline with age? Conversely, research now shows that throughout adulthood our sleep needs to remain constant.  Moreover, people having poor sleep quality in general show increased signs of intrinsic skin aging such as fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced elasticity.

Just a few highlights about World Sleep Day®…

Around the globe, more than 70 countries have worked together to both bring awareness of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders, and to celebrate sleep as a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, social aspects and driving.  There is an international collaboration amongst sleep leadership specialists from 17 countries, scientific research experts, sleep health awareness delegates, such as myself, celebrities, and the media, including CNN, Huffington Post, FoxNews, Yahoo among others.  And, did you also know that… for the past three years running the hashtag #WorldSleepDay has been a trending topic on Twitter?

As a psychological behavioral health practitioner and Transformational Lifestyle Coach Guru, sleep remains an integral part of some of the nuggets of self-care that I sprinkle amongst my clients.  For example, if you remember in the website blog at http://bit.ly/2HeakSk titled “The Jump Start Process” in my Meditative Monday Series: Mental Clearing for 2019 in Week 1, I outlined how to “Review, Recalibrate, and Regulate your bedtimes and wake up time” during that challenging period. And, while my thematic overtones usually are aligned with positive psychology, however, the flip-side to being proactive in working towards getting enough sleep are the adverse consequences that are associated with sleep deprivation.

One study estimates that given the average life expectancy for U.S. citizens falls between 73 and 79 years old one-third of our lives sleeping– that’s approximately 25 years of our lives sleeping! Now, while that may seem like a lot and you may be a subscriber to the adage that “I can sleep when I die,” the irony of this cliche’ is that to NOT sleep you may realize your wish a lot sooner than you wished too!  Why? Simply because of it, ABSOLUTELY essential that we sleep.

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is crucial for brain recuperation, cellular repair, and the reorganization of synaptic connections.  Moreover, sleep has been associated with having cognitive benefits such as increased capacities for creative thinking, language learning, inferential judgments, processing of emotional information, learning, solving problems, memory, and regulating mood.  Conversely, there is mounting evidence that links a chronic lack of sleep with an increased risk for developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, infections, impairs immunity, and metabolism.  Another common result of having a lack of sleep or having poor sleep quality is drowsy driving which is considered impaired driving and is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol because of the deterioration of our reaction time and driving inattention.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every year about 100,000 police-reported crashes involves drowsy driving. These crashes resulted in more than 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries.  Moreover, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur annually– more than three times the police-reported number and amounted to 6,400 fatalities, which is more than 350% greater than reported.  Excluding property damage, fatigue-related crashes resulting in injury or death cost society $109 billion annually. As a result of not being able to respond quickly while driving because of trouble focusing due to sleep deprivation, in fact, has public health consequences and affects us all.  

What you can do:

Pay careful attention to your mood, energy, and health after a poor night’s sleep versus a good one. Ask yourself, “How often do I get a good night’s sleep?” Like good diet and exercise, sleep is a critical component to overall health.  Plan your sleep by using the National Sleep Foundation’s Bedtime Calculator, which encourages individuals to plan their sleep click here to try it out http://bit.ly/2HBsgX2

Try these useful and effective healthy sleep tips:

    • Limit sleep stealer stimulants like coffee, energy drinks, alcohol
    • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends
    • Exercise daily, but not before you go to bed
    • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure the ideal temperature, sound, and light
    • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows
    • Turn off electronics before bed that have external lights—including those from electronic devices like cell phones, Xboxes, TVs, computers, etc. because they all interfere with our “circadian rhythm” or natural sleep/wake cycle
    • Turn off or your dim alarm clock light
    • Use daylight or bright light to help you adjust to jet lag and shift work schedules
    • Re-evaluate certain lifestyle factors that you have that may be affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress
    • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual

Schedule your sleep like any other daily activity, include it on your “To-Do List” and make a point to prioritize it as part of your daily routine as part of adopting a healthier lifestyle.  If you already know yourself to be sleep deprived take the time to assess and individualize your needs and habits going forward by using the National Sleep Foundation Sleep Diary to track your sleep habits over a 1-2 week period. And, if you find that your “cheating yourself and not treating yourself” share your results with your treating physician towards co-developing a healthy sleep strategy for you because again, a chronic lack of sleep or an untreated sleep disorder can impair your health.  Most importantly, make sleep a priority!

I welcome your thoughts, join the conversation in the comment section below.

Additional Resource Tools:

The Sleep Disorders eBook by Peter Hauri, Ph.D., http://sleepdisorders.sleepfoundation.org/

Aging and Sleep https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/aging-and-sleep

The NSF Sleep in America® poll: Sleep Health Index® http://bit.ly/2HAanbi



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