Make Sleep a Priority–Don’t take Chances

Last night, on 60 Minutes, Leslie Stahl talked to David Dinges, the scientist in charge of a sleep study at Penn State. I was intrigued because I have been talking to people about the importance of sleep for a long time now.

Dinges thinks that inadequate sleep may have contributed to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, which happened after midnight, with a man at the helm who had only slept 4 hours the night before. He also feels that the Chernobyl and the Three Mile Island disasters could be related to sleep deprivation because these occurred late at night. The assistant captain who crashed the Staten Island Ferry into a pier, killing 11, admitted that he felt exhausted before the accident.

Why is sleep the thing in our lives that always suffers? People brag that they “get by” on little sleep. Why is that considered a good thing?

One of the most important things we can do for our health and also to combat stress, is to get enough sleep. Most adults need about eight hours to function a peak efficiency during the day. We get irritable when we don’t rest enough.

We are not as creative and we cannot think as sharply. We lose focus during the day and we don’t even realize it! I am sure those people involved in the disasters did not realize how unfocused their thinking had become.

Do you really want to be operating machinery, driving a vehicle and taking care of your family when you are sleep deprived?

We can also end up eating more when we don’t get enough sleep.There are hormones that control our appetite that get out of whack when we don’t have enough sleep. Some of you may notice that when you haven’t slept well, you are hungrier and you crave carbs. This is not your imagination.

How do you get enough sleep? You make it a priority! You don’t hope it will happen, you make it happen.

Turn off the computer. Turn off the t.v. Go to bed. There will always be work to do and you can TiVo or tape the television show.

Establish a bedtime routine. Perhaps a hot bath or shower can help you relax. Make sure you don’t have caffeine, alcohol or nicotine in the four to six hours before bedtime. Avoid heavy meals three hours before bedtime. Some snacks that may help you sleep are dates, figs, milk, turkey or whole grain crackers.

Start with fifteen minutes earlier each night until you get the hang of your new routine. It’s worth it. You will feel and look great. You will also be safer in the long run.

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I am a Certified Life Coach, Author and Speaker and am an expert at helping people reduce stress. I work with individual clients and facilitate workshops and coaching for groups in my coaching practice. I am the author of three books and as a speaker, author, and coach, I offer easy-to-incorporate strategies to help people reduce stress. We cannot always change things around us, but we can change what's inside of us.

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