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HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics
The amount of the time spent sleeping is decreasing: the average amount of sleep reported for middle-aged people in the late 1050s—around eight to nine hours—has decreased in recent times to about seven or eight hours. And the number of individuals who sleep less than six hours each night has significantly increased. These changes in sleep patterns may be indicative of sleep deprivation in society at large. This is not surprising, as the modern society seems to offer twice as much work (on the job, at home, etc.) and half as much time to complete it. Consequently, we are awake for extended periods of time, thus reducing the amount of time we spend sleeping.
However, we all know that sleep is essential! Sleep is vital to restore and renew many body systems; and sleep deprivation may result in poor performance, increased sleepiness, reduced alertness, delayed response time, difficulty maintaining attention, decreased positive mood, and increased long-term health risks. Some research studies have even shown that sleep deprivation is associated with increased risk of death.
So adequate sleep is vital for everyone to optimally perform the activities of daily living. But you may wonder, “How can I determine how much sleep I need to function at my best?” Dr. Michael Bonnet, director of the Sleep Laboratory at the Dayton. Ohio, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center provides a very simple but practical test you can use to determine how much sleep you need. According to him, if you need an alarm clock to wake up, try going to bed a little earlier the following night (e.g., 15 minutes earlier). If you still need an alarm clock to wake up the next morning, push your bedtime a little earlier again (i.e., another 15 minutes). Continue doing this until you no longer need an alarm to wake up.
I actually tried this test and found out I was not the “night owl” I thought I was. It looks like I function at my best if I retire for the night a couple of hours earlier than I used to. Sleep is important! It significantly affects your performance, health, and quality of life. And it is especially important to Warfighters, who can rarely get enough when deployed. So in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, try to get enough sleep each night whenever your situation makes it possible.
Source: National Sleep Foundation
For a warfighter, sleep can be just as important to the mission as having enough food, water and ammunition. Realwarriors.net has a great piece on the common myths about sleep and six tips to improve sleep habits while settling into a new routine away from home.
According to researchers at Northwestern University, regular exercise may improve your sleep quality and mood. They studied two groups: one that exercised four times per week for 16 weeks, and one that took part in recreational and educational activities but did not exercise. Participants who exercised reported that their sleep quality improved. They also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality, and less sleepiness in the daytime. Sleep is important to good health, so stay physically active to improve your sleep quality and mood! Read HealthDay News for more details.
Sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, but in general, most healthy adults need at least eight hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Food fuels our way through the day (can give you the necessary energy to pull you through the day), but did you know that food also has an effect on how we sleep? Watch what you eat in the course of a day – particularly in the hours before you go to bed – if you want to optimize your sleep at night. We give you some tips below on the best foods to eat to help you sleep soundly, and those to avoid if you have trouble resting at night.
Foods to avoid before bed:
- Caffeine: Caffeine can cause sleep disturbances even many hours after drinking it. Some people find there’s a cut-off time for their bodies – caffeine before that time won’t affect their sleep, but anything after, say, 2:00 p.m. can cause problems with their sleep. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, among other foods.
- Alcohol: Some people think of alcohol as a nightcap to help you sleep better. While it may help you get to sleep faster, it also reduces sleep quality by waking you up later, in the middle of the night. A glass of wine before bed should be fine; several stiff drinks are not.
- Big or heavy meals: Fatty food takes time to digest and may keep you from getting to sleep. Spicy and acidic foods at night often cause stomach problems and/or heartburn. Try having an earlier dinner and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of when you’ll be going to bed.
- Liquids: Caffeinated drinks act as diuretics, resulting in frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom, and drinking too much water or other liquids close to bedtime also increases your trips to the bathroom in the night.
- Sugar: Anything too sugary, like many desserts or nighttime snacks are, can interfere with your sleep.
Best foods before bed:
- Bananas: Bananas contain large amounts of tryptophan, which triggers the release of melatonin and serotonin in our brains, helping us relax.
- Dairy: Dairy is also a good source of tryptophan, especially combined with some carbohydrates, like oatmeal. A warm glass of milk or a small bowl of oatmeal should help you sleep.
- Turkey: Another good source of tryptophan. Think of the post-Thanksgiving turkey slump many of us experience! Combined with whole-wheat bread in a small sandwich, this is a recipe for a deep, relaxing sleep.
Quality sleep is essential to our health. To start sleeping soundly, try some simple modifications to your diet and see if it helps you.
One way to lengthen your life is to sleep! Recent evidence suggests that men who have difficulty falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or only sleep for short periods of time may be at a higher risk of dying. In the study, men who reported to have insomnia or had insufficient sleep were much more likely to die over a 14-year period. Reduce your risk of death from all causes by sleeping!