sleepyWhile we sleep, our brain is recovering in preparation for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help us learn and remember new information, clearing out accumulated toxins, and storing our memories. Sleep also triggers growth hormones that help with building and renewing body tissue, boosting our immune systems and increasing reaction time.

While we sleep, our bodies undergo a process called consolidation – this process strengthens memories and help you “practice” skills learned while you were awake. Therefore, whether you’re trying to learn a new language, or have been practicing your golf swing, you’re more likely to get better at it if you’re getting adequate sleep.

What happens when we aren’t getting enough sleep?
If we’re not getting enough sleep, we may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also affects the body physically, and ongoing sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

How can we get more sleep?
Although you may not feel that you have the time to sleep more, perhaps you can try a few of these 7 suggestions if you’re feeling particularly sleep deprived from helpguide.org.

Remember – Even a loss of 1-2 hours of sleep a night can negatively impact your ability to perform at your best for 2-3 days!

1. Set a regular bedtime – Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night/day – choose a time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn.

2. Nap to make up for lost sleep. If you need to make up for a few lost hours, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping late. This strategy allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm, which often backfires in insomnia and throws you off for days.

3. Increase light exposure during the day
– Spend more time outside during daylight. Try to take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.
– Let as much light into your home/workspace as possible. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, and try to move your desk closer to the window.
– If necessary, use a light therapy box. A light therapy box can simulate sunshine and can be especially useful during short winter days when there’s limited daylight.

4. Stay away from big meals at night. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Fatty foods take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and may keep you up. Also be cautious when it comes to spicy or acidic foods in the evening, as they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.

5. Avoid alcohol before bed. Many people think that a nightcap before bed will help them sleep, but it’s counterintuitive. While it may make you fall asleep faster, alcohol reduces your sleep quality, waking you up later in the night. To avoid this effect, stay away from alcohol in the hours before bed.

6. Cut down on caffeine. You might be surprised to know that caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it! Consider eliminating caffeine after lunch or cutting back your overall intake.

7. Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of water, juice, tea, or other fluids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night. Caffeinated drinks, which act as diuretics, only make things worse.