Carmel Health

Monday, January 10, 2011

Feeling Tired? Me too.

As I made myself a strong coffee this morning at 5am I pondered the words of Benjamin Franklin - "Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise".

Recently my students were asked to set health goals and post them on this blog. If you scroll down you will notice that improving their current sleep patterns is a common goal. We ask so much of our students nowadays and it's no wonder that after school, homework, sports, drama, music and social commitments that a recent survey suggested that only 15% of teenagers got more than 8.5 hours on school nights.

The average American gets 7.5 hours of sleep per night which is significantly less than the 9 hours that their Grandparents would have got. Scientists now suggest that we should get 8 to 8.5 hours of sleep, with teenagers needing between 8.5 - 9.25 every night in order to perform to their best.

I did some research to find out the implications of having less sleep than needed. What can my students prevent if they were to catch a few more zzzzz's each night?
  • 'A' grade students get 15 minutes more sleep on average than 'B' grade students who get 15 minutes more sleep than 'C' grade students. With sufficient sleep we are more prepared to learn, we concentrate better and solve problems more effectively.
  • Tired students are more likely to reach for sugary or fried foods to counteract their drowsiness. They are also more likely to use stimulants, including caffeine or nicotine.
  • Our body repairs when we are sleeping. Students who do not get sufficient rest are more prone to developing pimples.
  • Tired students are also more likely to report higher levels of depression.

The National Sleep Foundation report that drowsy drivers kill 100,000 people every year.

Latest research is now linking sleep deprivation to obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer and impaired immune function! In fact a Harvard study suggested that women with less than 5 hours of sleep were 40% more likely to develop heart disease.

So in order to help my students who are aiming to get more sleep that they do currently, here are my tips to catching the fast train to Sleepville.

  • Develop a regular sleeping habit. While I appreciate that other committments might prevent you from getting to bed at the same time each night, if you only spend 6 hours in bed you can only hope to get 6 hours of sleep. Spend more time in bed.
  • Large meals eaten within 3 hours of bedtime are likely to interfere with sleep.
  • Get off Facebook! Our biological clock misinterprets the blue rays from TV's computers and cell phones as daylight. This then keeps us awake while we are trying to sleep. Try and make your room as dark as possible.
  • A quiet, relaxing bedroom, without distractions from music, TV, cell phones and annoying siblings will promote peace and eliminate stress and chaos.

Do you have any sleep tips? Did you set a sleep related goal this year. how successful have you been? Is your lack of sleep affecting other areas of your health triangle? Post a response below or take part in the sleep quiz at the top of this page.

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