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As the new year dawns, the holiday season is winding down, and while we move forward into 2015, many of us face the prospect of trying to adamantly keep up with our new year's resolutions.  Whether we've pledged to work out more, eat better, or change something about ourselves we don't really like when we look in the mirror, this is the time of the year when most of us are as focused as we ever will be on our health and well being.  With that in mind, there is one simple thing that we can do, in order to make sure that we operate at peak efficiency and live a healthy life: Sleep.

Our hectic lives can often be the greatest barrier to a proper night's rest, yet very little is more important to our ability to both ably function through the day, and lead the best quality of life that we can. As we've seen before here on the Green Blog, even the lighting in our home can damage our ability to sleep, throwing our bodies' natural circadian rhythms into disarray. Yet making the effort to sleep enough, and to get the best quality of rest that we can, has the potential to impact nearly every aspect of the way we go about our daily lives.

Proper sleep effects your physical and mental health, as well as your emotional well-being, governing even the way you interact with the world around you. In terms of physical health, lack of sleep has been connected to a variety of diseases. Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy, as it is during this phase of the day that your body is able to repair any damage or stress it has suffered. Sleep deficiency has been connected to
heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, and plays a large statistical role in obesity.  Proper sleep regulates the body's hormones, maintaining the appropriate balances required for it to function. One of these hormones is insulin, which regulates a person's blood glucose (sugar) level. Improper insulin levels can lead to a pre-diabetic state, eventually morphing into the full disease. Another of these hormones, triggered during deep sleep, signals the body's tissues to grow, repairing themselves as we rest.

Mental and emotional health are closely tied to proper sleep as well. As the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute relates, sleep is absolutely essential for proper brain function. Adequate amounts of sleep have been shown to support the ability to learn and to improve memory, while fostering creativity and heightening our attentiveness. Sleep aids our decision making capabilities, as well as enabling our problem-solving skills.

A deficiency of sleep, on the other hand, turns all of these benefits on their head, while having drastic effects on our emotional health.  You know how you feel after a lousy night of sleep, irritable, quick to snap and possibly even angry.  Continued sleep deprivation normalizes these emotional traits, until we no longer understand how badly we feel. Sleep deficient individuals have been shown to take more risks, have higher levels of depression, and are more likely to develop suicidal thoughts. Living this way predisposes you to mood swings and impulsive behaviors, directly effecting the way you interact with others around you and the way they perceive you.

Sleep deprivation can also be dangerous.  Have you ever heard of microsleep? Many people haven't, but the odds are you've experienced it. If you've ever drifted off in the middle of a lecture and forgotten what was said, or felt like you missed the point, you may have experienced microsleep, while totally unaware of it. Microsleep is, quite simply, the brief moments of sleep that will occur when you are normally awake. You can't control microsleep, and in many cases, people aren't even aware that it happens. 
Pair this occurrence with driving or the operation of heavy machinery, and you have a recipe for disaster.  Many of us have experienced a moment while driving where we forget a part of our trip, and this can be an instance of microsleep as well.
Nearly 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths, are estimated to be attributable to driver fatigue, a statistic that shows more sharply than any other the importance of a proper night's rest.

When it comes to quality of sleep, our beds are often another roadblock standing in the way of a peaceful rest. Chemically laden, fire-retardant mattresses pose their own unique health risks, as we've discussed before on this blog, and while there is no substitute for the proper amount of sleep, quality of rest is closely tied to the regenerative health functions associated with it. If you're interested in fostering a healthier sleep environment for yourself, renewable alternatives such as wool and latex offer measurable benefits, such as natural fire-retardants (eliminating chemical coatings), and increased support and comfort.

The need for proper rest effects our bodies and our daily lives more than almost any other factor. By taking steps to support and foster this requirement, we can make another resolution this year, to improve our quality of
life dramatically. Make sleep a priority in your day, and you'll likely find that all of your other resolutions are that much easier to keep, freeing you to support your health all year long.



 


Comments

01/13/2015 2:31am

One of my new year resolutions is to sleep early, giving me a chance to take at least six to seven hours sleep. Last year, because of the busy schedule with my work and my other community activities I lacked time to sleep well. The cause was I got sick. Yes! I earned lots of money and you help others, but my health suffered. I don't want that to happen again this year.

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11/03/2016 5:11am

Believe it or not, developing a sleeping pattern is really easy. You really cannot force yourself to sleep at your desired hour on the first night. What you need to do is discipline yourself to stay awake for two to three days unless you are sleeping on the time where you want to sleep regularly. Say you decided you wanted to sleep regularly at eleven in the evening, if you are still awake at three in the morning, try your best to stay awake until eleven in the evening the next night. If you keep awake the whole time, your body will signal that you will be sleepy close to the 48th hour. That's the time you should sleep. You will be sleepy again at the same time the next day unless you have distractions. So try to avoid distractions while trying to develop this pattern.

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05/29/2015 10:43am

I think this resolution is the main this for many of us! Thanks for the advice!

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06/03/2015 9:50pm

Yeah this year I want to sleep right - not more, not less. It's scary the toll sleep deprivation takes on the body. Lack of sleep affects people mentally, physically and emotionally. People who claims they thrive on little sleep are either lying or just waiting for the reality to slap them to sleep. Our bodies regenerate when we sleep. How can we function properly if our bodies are not given the chance to completely recuperate from yesterday's activities? These are not claims either, Research supports the negative impact of sleep deprivation.

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06/11/2015 2:18pm

As for me all these resolutions are very important but few people fulfill them

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Lack of sleep affects people mentally, physically and emotionally. People who claims they thrive on little sleep are either lying or just waiting for the reality to slap them to sleep. So be active and do positive things.

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