What’s the right balance, for optimal wellness, between being awake and being asleep? I have written before about this important balance, and it’s time for a refresher course. That’s because the balance between being awake and being asleep is the critical factor. Too much sleep (more than 8 hours per night) and too little sleep (less than 6 hours per night) are equally damaging to our health and well being.
That may seem impossible. How can too much sleep cause a problem? The answer lies in the balance. Different things go on in our bodies while we are awake and while we are asleep. Too little sleep interferes with the metabolism of glucose, compromises the immune system, triggers weight gain, increases mortality, and leads to psychological problems such as moodiness, anxiety, and irritability. Too much sleep — which usually means too much disrupted sleep — generates too many cytokines, increases mortality, and leads to its own set of psychological problems such as depression.
So what’s a person to do? Shoot for around 7 hours of sleep per night. I recommend 7.5 hours, since that represents five full 90-minute sleep cycles. Those cycles are important and explain why napping does not generate the same benefits as a good night’s sleep. With each successive sleep cycle, the body goes deeper into its rest and recovery routine. We need that depth if we hope to be alert and energetic throughout the day.
Getting a good night’s sleep starts with the clear conviction that sleep is important. Sleep is not a luxury and it’s not just for babies. Sleep — 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night on a regular basis — is a necessity for top performers. That is true not only for athletic performance, but for all performance. Whether you work in an office or care for children, whether you drive trucks or calculate trajectories, you will not perform at your best if you are getting too little or too much sleep.
Once we accept the importance of 6-8 hours of sleep, we need to do those things that will assist us to get that much sleep. For starters, it’s important to go to bed and to wake up at more or less the same times every day, seven days a week. It doesn’t work to catch up on the weekends. Top performance requires a regular sleep pattern. In addition, you may want to implement the following recommendations adapted from the National Sleep Foundation:
- Consume little or no caffeine and avoid alcohol.
- Avoid drinking too many fluids before going to sleep.
- Avoid heavy meals less than 3 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity contributes to sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.
- Exercise regularly, but do so in the daytime, preferably after noon but not closer than 3 hours before bedtime.
- Adopt a relaxing routine, like soaking in hot water or listening to music, before bedtime.
- Avoid naps longer than 30 minutes or after 3:00 PM.
- Make your bedroom conducive to sleep (dark, quiet, temperate, clean, and beautiful).
- Minimize allergens in your environment.
- Get an excellent quality mattress, and don’t expect it to last forever.
- Keep a sleep diary before and after you try these tips. If the quality of your sleep does not improve, share this diary with your doctor.
Coaching Inquiries: Are you alert and energetic throughout the day? Do you sleep too little or too much? Do you embrace the importance of sleeping enough? How could you change your schedule to get more or less sleep on a regular basis? What would you have to change about your routine before bedtime?
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
2010-2011 President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
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