The Transformative Power of Sleep

Written by Alicia Cassels, MA, MFLN Military Caregiving Team Member

If you regularly experience tiredness, find it difficult to manage your emotional responses, want to improve your memory or lose weight, it may be time to take a closer look at the amount and quality of sleep that you are getting each night.

In our busy culture, slowing down is often viewed as counterproductive.  We tend to value activity and devalue the importance of rest. More hours dedicated to sleep may be incorrectly viewed as less time for work, family, and friends.  As the result, many of us get by on little sleep and prioritize wakeful activities and responsibilities without realizing that this choice places our health, relationships, and lives at risk.

 Are you Underestimating the Power of Sleep?

Experts know that sleep is anything but an unproductive, passive activity.  According to the American Psychological Association, sleep engages active processes in the brain and other body systems to ensure good mental, physical and emotional functioning. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes describes the neurologic functions conducted by the body to promote the effective storage of memories during sleep and the way that the body regulates hormones which protect the heart and circulatory system while also working to strengthen the immune system during sleep.  In other words, sleep serves as the maintenance, construction and medical crew for your body.

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

The National Sleep Foundation points out that lack of sleep is linked to poor mental performance, stress, obesity, depression, occupational errors, weight gain, reduced neurologic function and disease.  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that lack of sleep causes more than 83,000 automobile accidents in the United States each year. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified lack of sleep as a public health issue, it does not to appear as a priority item on the radar of many caregivers, educators, and helping professionals.

 

Prioritizing sleep can serve as one of the best investments that you will ever make in your health!

Download handout: The Truth About Sleep PDF

Understanding the Role of Sleep

As advances in imaging technology are leveraged by researchers studying the role of sleep in humans, our understanding of the functions performed by the body during sleep is expanding in exciting ways. The truth is that sleep is an extraordinarily important activity for humans at all ages and stages of life, providing the physical, emotional and neurologic foundation upon which our most important systems operate.

Ready to Try Easy Strategies for Improving the Amount or Quality of Your Sleep?

Check out my Secrets of Self-Care Video Series to learn some of my tips for getting started.

 

Additional Resources:

You can find the complete set of National Sleep Foundation recommendations for infants, children, and adults here.

Download the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes Guide to Healthy Sleep!

 Cited Research and Additional Sources

  • American Psychological Association. (2014).  More Sleep Would Mare Us Happier, Healthier and Safer [Web article].  Retrieved April 1, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sleep-health.aspx
  • American Psychological Association. (2013).  Stress and Sleep [Web article]. Retrieved March 30, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep.aspx
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  (2015).  Insufficient Sleep is a Public Health Problem [Web article].  Retrieved March 30, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/
  •  Hirshkowitz, Max et al.  (2015).  National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary.  Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, Volume 1, Issue 1, 40 – 43.
  • McKnight-Eily, L.R et.al. (2011).  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Volume 60, Issue 8, 233-238.
  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes.  (2011).  Your Guide to Healthy Sleep.  Retrieved April 10, 2017, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf
  • National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (2017). Drowsy Driving [Web article]. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drowsy-driving
  • National Sleep Foundation. (2014).  NSF Sleep in America Poll Summary of Findings.  Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/2014-NSF-Sleep-in-America-poll-summary-of-findings—FINAL-Updated-3-26-14-.pdf
  • National Sleep Foundation. (2015).  NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION RECOMMENDS NEW SLEEP TIMES.  Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times
  • National Sleep Foundation. (2017). The Connection Between Sleep and Overeating. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/the-connection-between-sleep-and-overeating.

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