Note: This article is a follow up article to the initial Performance Triad article. Every two weeks an article will be published on a new component of the Performance Triad.
Your health and safety depends on the amount of sleep you get. Doctors recommend people get an average of 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Studies show that sleeping less than 6 hours a night for a week is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent. Lack of sleep can impair the way you function and cause significant deterioration in reaction time.
“Sleep is an essential human requirement, similar to food and water. Lack of sufficient sleep is attributed to a long list of both short and long term health related problems,” said Madigan Army Medical Center Assistant Chief of the Department of Medicine, Lt. Col. Vincent Mysliwiec.
The Performance Triad Campaign lists 10 effective sleep habits. Among them are:
- Create a dark, comfortable sleeping environment
- Remove distractions from the bedroom, including bright lights from electronic devices
- Stop caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime.
- Don’t drink alcohol before bed
- Get your exercise in by early evening
- Don’t go to bed hungry
- Maintain a routine with a fixed wake up time
- Get out of bed if you can’t sleep
- Nap wisely: Anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes
- Move the bedroom clock to where you can’t see it
An individual with chronic insufficient sleep is at higher risk for fatal illnesses like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, or premature death.
“Insufficient sleep impairs judgment and increases the risk of accidents,” Mysliwiec said.
Individuals with sleep problems should rule out a more serious sleep disorder known as insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which an individual has problems falling asleep, staying asleep and wake up too early. During the day, individuals with insomnia experience symptoms such as fatigue and stomach distress. Mysliwiec recommends that individuals who can’t sleep more than 5 hours be evaluated for a sleep disorder.
Making sleep a priority and scheduling time to sleep is essential to getting enough sleep. Wissemann recommends having a sleep routine, especially for young children. If thoughts are keeping you up, write it down and deal with it in the morning, Wissemann said.
Mysliwiec said the reason individuals are unable to maintain a healthy sleep schedule is due to overuse of electronics.
“Most people have 7-8 hours during which they can sleep, but opt to do other activities, such as watch TV, work on the computer, etc,” Mysliwiec said.
“It’s a matter of having a regular bedtime and a routine,” Wissemann added.
For new parents, Mysliwiec recommends sharing responsibilities, especially at night. Mysliwiec found that a pre-arranged schedule works best for new parents. The schedule can have one spouse covering feedings for one night and the other spouse covering feedings for the alternate night. A second option is one spouse going to bed earlier than other. Family members or friends are essential during the first four months.
Electronics, like mobile phones and computers, are not only a distraction; they also decrease the quality of sleep. According to Wissemann, mobile devices affect serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that helps people sleep and relax. When serotonin levels are affected the individual reaches deep sleep much later than an individual who does not use mobile devise.
“Deep sleep rejuvenates the body. Bright lights delay the onset of deep sleep,” Wissemann said.
“All stages of sleep are important. Sleep has a rhythm or architecture and it is this rhythm that is part of healthy sleep,” Mysliwiec added.
Mysliwiec describes sleep in two stages, deep sleep and REM. During deep sleep the individual is most difficult to awaken and secretes key hormones essential for growth and recovery. REM occurs later in the sleep period. During REM all of the muscles except for the eyes and diaphragm are paralyzed.
A demanding work and personal life can make 7-8 hours of sleep nearly impossible for most individuals. Though it may not always be possible during work time, napping during the day is recommended to make up for lack of sleep.
“Naps are an effective countermeasure than can help out for lost sleep to an extent,” Mysliwiec said.
Naps should not be longer than 30 minutes; anything more can affect an individual’s nighttime sleep or sleep routine. The ideal time for a nap is in the mid-afternoon before 3 p.m. Naps after 3 p.m. can impact the normal bed time routine.
According to Wissemann, substances like alcohol will make you sleepy but will not allow you to gain the deep sleep your body needs.
For more on effective sleep habits visit: http://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/healthyliving/sleep/Pages/default.aspx