Pursue What Matters
Episode 15: Benefits of Sleep
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Are you getting enough sleep? Chances are the answer that question is no. Why do we insist on burning the candle at both ends when the research is pretty clear that cutting ourselves short on sleep can be pretty disastrous to both our health and our performance? Join me as I help you understand why sleep is so essential, but also what you can do to get more sleep so you can pursue what matters.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:47
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work? Do you ever wake up in the morning and count how many hours before you can climb back into bed, I have totally been guilty of this. If you do this occasionally, or even every day, then you my friend seriously need this podcast. If you’re like most Americans, you are likely sleep deprived. And you probably don’t need me to tell you that. And I’m definitely not here to give you one more thing to feel guilty about. But I would like to give you a little push to do what it takes to get some more quality sleep in your life, as it will pay big dividends in your life and your leadership. I’m also giving you a great freebie to help you on that path to get more quality sleep. So let’s jump in.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:46
Okay, so the recommended amount of sleep for adults is at least seven hours a night. Yet 35% of Americans don’t get that much sleep. I definitely don’t average seven hours of sleep a night. Like if I did that across a week. I have maybe average seven hours. But yeah, most of us most of us don’t get that much sleep. 75% of those who suffer from depression also suffer from a lack of sleep. So they often go hand in hand. And nearly 20% of all serious car crash injuries are associated with driver sleepiness. So I don’t know you’ve seen on probably started seeing on a lot of interstates there are signs about drowsy driving, because they’ve started doing some research. And they’ve seen that drowsy driving is actually responsible for a lot of accidents. So you’ve seen like don’t don’t be a drowsy driver, pullover, that sort of thing. And there’s been a big push on Interstate signage to alert drivers to this. Okay, 97% of teenagers do not get enough sleep 97%. So basically all of them, a study found that although teens need around nine hours of sleep each night, the average teen just gets 6.5 hours, most weekdays, so 6.5 hours. So you know, sometimes, you might get after your teenager and say oh my gosh, like get up especially on a Saturday morning if they’re sleeping in. But honestly, they need that sleep. So maybe you should let your teenager sleep in on Saturday morning and have that 97% 20% of those teenagers are getting less than five hours of sleep per night. So really sleep deprived those teenagers. So this this one is probably less surprising. But seven out of 10 college students don’t get enough sleep. So pretty much we’re all sleep deprived, over 100,000 deaths can be attributed to medical errors due to sleep deprivation.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:03
This one hits close close to home. My guy Fred is an ER doc and I can guarantee you Everyone who comes into the ER wants to know that he’s not sleep deprived, right. So now let’s talk about sleep aids. Pretty much they should just put sleep aids in the water because we’re we’re pretty much all taking them. Just kidding. Not all of us but 9 million Americans take prescription medication to help them fall asleep. So we’re not getting enough sleep. We’re also having trouble falling asleep or having trouble staying asleep. But then we’re also taking a lot of caffeine to help us wake up. So you see we’ve got a pretty troubling cycle here. And this 9 million is just prescription medication, right so plenty of us are taking over the counter medications that of course would not be accounted in this number. But and if we’re you know, we’re talking about the economy, sleep deprivation costs the US economy $411 billion annually, which is the same amount as the entire world loses to cybercrime each year.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:16
So sleep deprivation carries really high costs. And if you’re like many busy, busy leaders who are surviving and striving, you are not getting enough sleep, there’s always more to do. And when are you going to fit in all the extra stuff. Usually, it’s when you should be sleeping either late at night, or early in the morning. So we also know that our handy little devices that we can’t seem to live without have really impacted the quality of our sleep. So do you find yourself checking work emails up until the minute you go to bed, or maybe while you’re still in bed, or maybe you’re putting out work fires via texts, or calls first thing in the morning, I really hope you’re not doing this. But this is not uncommon for most leaders. And so if, if you’re, you know, doing some of these things, hopefully, our podcast today can help you to change some of these some of these habits so that you can be on the path to more effective sleep.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:17
So today, I want to help you find a bit more sanity and balance when it comes to your sleep, so that you’re not undermining your health, your leadership or your life. Sounds pretty good. Right? So let’s start with some basics first. So let’s start with a little bit of a mini sleep assessment. So I just want you to think about these questions. Think about your answers. Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you more like nine hours of quality sleep to get you into high gear? So you know, for most adults, they need about between seven and nine hours. So just think about where you find that you’re most productive if you’re closer to seven hours, or if you’re closer to nine hours? Because there’s definitely individual differences there. Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease? Are you experiencing sleep problems? Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day? If you’re like most people, the answer is yes. Do you feel sleepy? When driving? Do you often wake up in the middle of the night? Do you have difficulty falling asleep? Do you require medication to help you fall asleep? Either prescription or over the counter? Do you have difficulty waking up in the morning? Do you hit snooze more than once? Do you hit snooze three times or more? Do you feel groggy upon waking, even after getting a full night’s rest? Okay, so this is just a little bit of a of an assessment?
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:10
If your answer, you know, if you answer yes, to you know more than just, you know, two or three of these questions, I would just say you know, you probably definitely want to pay close attention to what we’re talking about here because you could definitely use some improvement on your sleep. Of course, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that but a little extra attention to sleep and some, you know, I would say a more proactive stance on your sleep can pay really big dividends. So that’s the good news, there are some simple things that you can do, that can make a really big difference. And so it’s definitely not a lost cause. So you know, we spend a third of our life sleeping. So it’s a really important part of our lives and we definitely don’t want to scrimp on it. And you know, of course, our sleep needs vary across ages and they are especially impacted by life style and help.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:14
So just a note here as it’s one of the main points of this, some podcasts. So if your lifestyle is to push hard, and refuse your body’s cues, you will pay and you will require more sleep and recovery time. But if you can be proactive about sleep and give your body what it needs, your body will serve you well and you’ll have the energy you need to live a full and active life. So you won’t need to dedicate a lot of extra time to recovery and to catching up so that you know your your sleep needs are impacted by your lifestyle and by your health. So let’s make sleep an important part of your health and your lifestyle so that you’re not always playing catch up. So that’s really what we’re gonna pay attention to today. So let’s talk about sleep needs by age. Of course, it varies across the lifespan. So babies need a lot of sleep. But as we age, we need less sleep. But there’s also individual differences. So you don’t ever want to use a hard and fast rule for yourself. But in general, it’s good to use age guidelines as a general recommendation, in addition to what you understand about your own needs.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:30
So for in, for instance, in general, most adults between age 26 to 64, need between seven to nine hours of sleep. But first of all, ages 26 to 64 is a huge age gap, right? I mean, that’s, that’s pretty much everyone. So there’s a ton of differences between 26 year old and a 64 year old, so let’s not be too rigid about this recommendation. And then of course, within that age recommendation, there are going to be a lot of individual differences. So some adults within that range will thrive on closer to six to seven hours, while others will need closer to nine to 10 hours. So you really want to pay attention to your own body cues and feedback. And to respect those cues. One of the mistakes many of us make is to push through and disregard the feedback that our bodies give us only to pay a high price down the road in illness, fatigue, less resilience to stress. And the thing about stress is that our bodies repair themselves in sleep. So if you are not getting enough sleep, your body is never able to repair itself. So in a very real way. Sleep builds resilience, sleep is all about renewal and repair and recovery. Not only the physical health, but also the mental health. And so if you’re cheating on sleep, you’re cheating, you’re cheating your health, you’re cheating your life, you will shorten your life that is absolutely clear.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:09
So pay attention to other individual differences as well, such as health status. So if you have a chronic health condition, you may need more sleep, if you’re going through a stressful transition, you’re probably going to need more sleep. So like I said, if you if you have higher stress, you’re going to need more sleep, because sleep is one of the most important ways we cope with stress not in an avoidance way, right. But stress takes a heavy toll on the body. And the body repairs itself via sleep. If your sleep is disrupted for other reasons, say a baby or a teenager in the house, you may need to prioritize sleep or napping. So again, use the guidelines flexibly. So in the freebie, I will include a handy little guideline that includes the recommendations for sleep by age across the lifespan, so you can kind of see what those are. So if you have a newborn at home, if you have a preschooler, if you have a teenager, that sort of thing, so you can kind of see what to expect. And you know, information is power.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:24
So it can be really helpful to understand the sleep guidelines by age, so that you can have a realistic expectation for yourself and for those you love. So for example, if you’re a parent of children or teenagers, you really want to pay attention to these guidelines. As we can see, like, virtually every teenager out there are seriously sleep deprived. And so as a parent, I think it can really empower you to enforce those guidelines. And like I remember when my kiddos were young, and I would talk to other parents, I was always flabbergasted at how late they would let their elementary kids stay. I was just like, Oh my gosh, like you have no idea. And I think, you know, I don’t obviously they didn’t have ill intentions. But I think they just didn’t understand how much sleep their kids needed. And of course, little kids are always going to want to stay up later. I mean, it’s a little kids job to push boundaries, but that’s where parents armed with some power. Right? I mean, of course they’ve got power parents, but armed with information, really need to enforce boundaries and say like, no, like you got to get to bed because I know you need this sleep. And so information is power and can be really helpful. Okay, so now let’s move on to some solutions. Because that’s what that’s what we’re all about. Right? So now that you have a better understanding of where you stand in terms of your own sleep, and whether you’re getting enough and of course what the guidelines are.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:59
Let’s turn our attention to sleep hygiene. So sleep hygiene is kind of a fancy. It’s kind of a weird term. But it’s a health term for those practices that support a healthy relationship with sleep. So it’s all about developing a healthy sleep pattern. And it’s really the best place to start for resetting your sleep. And so the freebie that I’ve got for you, is all focused on resetting your sleep, it will include all these great guidelines on sleep hygiene. So I will let you know at the end of the podcast, how to download this great freebie. And so make sure that you keep listening and get this freebie because it’s a great one. And it can be really helpful for you and for your family. Anyone that you lead, okay, so sleep hygiene includes a lot of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality, and full daytime alertness. So it’s it, it covers it all. And obtaining healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. And of course, it can also improve productivity and overall quality of life. And that’s what we want, right? Like you want to lead. You want to lead Well, you want to have a great happy life. And so we’re we’re all about quality of life. We’re all about productivity. And so sleep hygiene is a part of that strong foundation.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:34
Let’s talk about the signs of poor sleep hygiene. First of all, you’ve got frequent sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness, these are the most telling signs of poor sleep hygiene. In addition, if you’re taking too long to fall asleep, you should probably consider evaluating your sleep routine, and revising your bedtime habits. So just a few simple changes can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a nice fat tossing and turning. So okay, maybe you have poor sleep hygiene. And that’s okay, you’re just getting into this statistics nicely, but it’s time to take action to improve sleep, because your production efficiency and brainpower will improve tremendously.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:18
So here are seven tips on how to improve your sleep hygiene. Are you ready? Okay, tip one, avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. So when it comes to alcohol, moderation is key. So while alcohol is well known to help you fall asleep faster, too much alcohol close to bedtime can really disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process alcohol. So really keep your alcohol intake in check. And then of course avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine as you approach that time.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:59
Okay, tip two exercise to promote good quality sleep. So as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality. So for the best nighttime sleep, most people should avoid strenuous workouts close to that time. So the timing of your workouts really does matter. So you don’t want really strenuous workouts right before bedtime. But the effect of intense nighttime exercise on sleep differs from person to person. So really, you might want to play around with this a little bit and find out what works best for you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:37
Okay, so tip three, you want to steer clear of foods that can be disruptive, right before sleep. So you’ve probably experiences where you know eating heavy or rich foods or fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, or sometimes citrus fruits and carbonated drinks can really trigger indigestion. And you know, when this occurs close to bedtime, it can lead to a lot of heartburn and disrupted sleep. So enjoy your orange, but maybe keep it closer to breakfast or lunch rather than a bedtime snack. So just you know, keep those heavy mills in check. Have them earlier in the evening. Don’t, don’t eat really spicy foods close to bedtime.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:22
Okay, so tip four, ensure adequate exposure to natural light. So this is particularly important for individuals who may not venture outside frequently. So exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night really helps to maintain a healthy sleep wake cycle. So if you work inside all day, make sure you take a quick five minute break and step outside so if the weather permits, eat your lunch outside, make sure that you’re getting outside you’re getting some natural light exposure and that really helps to regulate your body clock. So that’s that’s an important tip to keep in mind.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:03
Okay, tip five, let’s establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. And this is a really key component of sleep hygiene. So a regular nightly routine helps the body recognize that it’s bedtime. So this could include taking a warm shower or a bath, reading a book or doing light stretching. So when possible, try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before attempting to sleep. So one thing you know, my girlfriend knows, like, I cannot talk about finances before bad, because they’re just stressful conversations. For me, I, you know, if he were to start a conversation about finances, I would be up the rest of the night thinking about finances, because they just worry me, I’m just a warrior about that sort of sort of thing. And so he knows that he cannot have those conversations with me before at that time. So that’s kind of a rule that we have in our relationship. So think about whether you have a relaxing bedtime routine. So I am one that you know, I love structure structure gives me a sense of predictability, it brings me a sense of comfort, and certainly helps with relaxation at that time. So I’m a big believer in this. So just about every evening, before I get ready for bed, I take my pup on a walk, usually just around the neighborhood, it’s usually like a 10 or 15 minute walk. But that’s one of my favorite parts of the evening. Usually, it’s a little later in the evening when the sun has gone down. So it’s starting to cool down a little bit. Sometimes I can see the sun has set and the sky is just beautiful. Sometimes my neighbors are out and so I have a nice little visit. But it’s just really peaceful time. With Me and my pup sometimes my guy friend is long. And I really enjoy that time. Some other things that I do as part of my bedtime routine, you know, I can get my pajamas on brushing my teeth, washing my face some of those basics, I always get my workout clothes out because I’m an early morning riser. And so it’s dark when I get up. And so the last thing that I want is to be fumbling around in the dark trying to find my exercise clothes. Plus, it just makes it a lot easier in the morning if you if you have your clothes, you know you’ve got your gym bag already. And so I make sure that I have that all ready to go the night before. And then I always read a book for pleasure in bed before I go to bed at night. And that really helps to just quiet my mind and kind of helped me wind down before I go to bed. And I try as much as possible to put my phone away, I close it off and put on the Do Not Disturb. And you know, shut it away in a drawer in like 30 minutes before I go to bed as much as possible. And just can kind of take a break from from the phone. So you know not checking email and not doing anything like that. And actually try not to check email in the evening hours at all. But those are, those are some of the parts of my bedtime routine that kind of helped to gear, my mind and my body down for bedtime. I also turn the lights down because that’s also part of physically cueing your body for bedtime because if you have all the lights up high, it’s stimulating to your body and so, queuing queuing your body by turning the lights down can also be really helpful.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:08
Okay, tip six, make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant. So mattress and pillow should be comfortable. Bedroom should be cool. So between 60 and 67 degrees for optimal sleep. This reminds me of my mother so my mother loves to sleep in a cold bedroom and it’s it’s like frigid I feel so bad for my dad because he’s he’s always freezing but 60 to 67 degrees like that. They say that that’s the optimal temperature for sleep that is freakin an icebox like I think that would be way too cold asleep. But anyway my my mother would agree with that. Anyway, in general the bedroom should be cooler. So you want bright light from lamp cell phone TV screens can make it difficult to fall asleep. So turn those lights off, or adjust then then possible. Consider using blackout curtains, I shave earplugs, white noise machines, humidifiers and, and other devices that can make your bedroom more relaxing. You know, if you read on your phone or on a tablet, use the use the night mode lighting, I can’t remember what they call it, where the light is dimmer that can make a big difference. And can I just make a plea? If you have a television in your bedroom, my plea to you would be to get rid of it. Or to not use it? Yeah, I do feel like a zealot on this one that the bedroom for Yeah, for married couples or partners that the bedroom is you know, for two things, and sleeping is one of them. And TV watching is not the other. So we’ll just leave it at that I television in the bedroom will undermine sleep hygiene. So there are other problems with having a TV in the bedroom. But I’ll leave it at that for now.
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:24
Okay, tip seven, limit daytime naps to 30 minutes. So napping does not make up for inadequate nighttime sleep. However, a short nap of 20 to 30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance. So there you go. There are seven tips for improving sleep hygiene, which this leads me to the next thing that I want to talk about, which is an ode to naps. So I have always been a believer in naps. But like now I talk about solid. Like I love naps. And there’s a lot of research about how beneficial naps are. And so I want to include some tips and tricks and benefits, but also a couple of warnings about naps. Because there certainly are a lot of benefits about naps. But we want you to be smart about the way you use naps so that they are not disrupting your nighttime sleep. So let’s talk a little bit about naps. naps help us recharge. So even when we’re getting adequate sleep. naps can act as a reset button by providing both a physical and mental boost, which I think is super cool naps help us think more clearly. And naps can sharpen our focus and problem solving capacities naps have been shown to improve memory recall, naps can also mitigate poor sleep. So if you’re sleeping poorly at night, for whatever reason, naps can help decrease those effects, at least in the short term. Like I mentioned, naps won’t replace inadequate sleep, but they can definitely help. So if you have some significant sleep problems, like naps are not going to be a long term solution. But they can certainly help be you know, a bridge until you can get some substantial help. So research shows that naps lower vulnerability to stress. So sign me up, right, we could all use some help with that. I’ve talked about this earlier in the podcast, but the body recovers during sleep. And so naps can boost your immune system. And of course, naps can help with that. So, you know, when I have, you know what I consider times when you know, maybe I’ve been ill or maybe I’ve had a surgery and thinking about how much sleep my body needed as part of the recovery process. You know, it’s it was kind of like staggering to me that Gosh, like I had no idea that I could sleep that much. And it just really speaks to the importance of sleep in recovery and that the body really does recover and heal itself be asleep. And so we really want to respect that process and make sure that we’re giving the body what it needs.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:27
Okay, naps can improve your health. So of course, that the body recovers with sleep. So naps have been shown to lower blood pressure in addition to helping to show improvement on several other health factors. So I think that’s pretty awesome. And perhaps most importantly, maybe just to me, but naps just feel good. So let’s let’s kind of talk about do’s and don’ts with naps. So naps need not interrupt nighttime sleep sleep so she Cat naps of 30 minutes or less do not negatively impact nighttime sleep. So don’t go longer than 30 minutes because that’s when you really run the risk of disrupting nighttime sleep. So naps benefit us more as we age. So the older we get, the more we benefit from napping. So right, like we shouldn’t stop napping. Once we’re done with kindergarten, you should keep it up. naps don’t necessarily require sleeping, I love this one laying down and closing your eyes for a few minutes. Even if you don’t actually sleep can be restorative. So think of this time as hitting the refresh button on your browser. So even just laying down closing your eyes can be helpful. And brief cat naps in the early afternoon are best. So not being too late or too long will of course impact nighttime sleep.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:55
And why would you want to do that to yourself? So really, with this one, you want to avoid late afternoon napping. Okay, so why did that just make me sleepy? It really did. I’m like, Okay, I think it’s time for me to take a nap. So one thing you should know about me is I take a nap every single day, every afternoon, when I get home from work, the first thing I do is lay down and take a nap. And it’s really interesting because as I’ve done this, my body, my body kind of works like clockwork, and right at the it’s usually like 15 to 20 minutes, my body just kind of pops back up and refreshes. And I really do feel that boost of energy. And I’m able to, you know, pop right back up and have energy to carry on with my afternoon. And it’s it really is very refreshing for me. And so I am a big believer in in napping. So you know, I hope you will consider incorporating napping and that you know that you won’t feel guilty about that. Because, you know, we were interested when it comes to our leadership, we’re interested in doing what works, right. And we don’t have time for guilt. We don’t have time for shame or anything like that. And so if napping is something that can help you to be more productive, it can help you to be more creative, it can help you with memory recall, you know, why wouldn’t you consider napping as a tool in your arsenal? Like I think it’s a no brainer, okay.
Dr. Melissa Smith 32:34
So I know that more sleep has personally benefited me in my life. And I hope that after you know this episode, you see how important adequate sleep is. You can’t really pursue what matters when you can’t even keep your eyes open. And sleep is definitely one of those basics when it comes to self care. Like if you don’t have if you don’t have the basics taken care of. You cannot take care of pursuing what matters. And so sleep is definitely one of those fundamentals. And so if you are burning the candle at both ends, it’s going to be really difficult for you to be successful and for you to really optimize your performance. And it’s just as simple as that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 33:19
So I’m absolutely ready for my afternoon nap. But before I sign off, I just want to remind you to make sure you head on over to my website, to check out the show notes with all the great resources for this episode and to also download the freebie that will help you create a better sleep routine. So I’m going to give you all of the tips for improving your sleep hygiene. I’ll also give you the do’s and don’ts of napping and help you to get on the path of improving your sleep so that you really can thrive in your leadership and in your life. So head on over to www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-15 one more time. That’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-15. My challenge to you is to is to create a healthy sleep hygiene routine for yourself. And then let me know how you’re doing. You can find me on Instagram @drmelissasmith. I would really love to hear what you do to find balance with sleep and in your life. I think it would be really fun to hear what you’re doing. I would also love to hear what you think of the podcast head on over to iTunes and give us a review. It helps other people find this so I appreciate you listening. I appreciate you taking the time to either review. Okay, all right. Inside enough and I’m going to go take a nap. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work in love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai