With more tasks to accomplish than there are hours in the day, it seems like “get to bed early” never quite makes it onto our to-do lists. I know I have certainly been guilty of over scheduling my days, leaving only a 6- or 7-hour window for sleep—and that’s assuming I fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow. As if. Sometimes the switch that allows me to fall into a deep restful sleep just won’t flip, or I fall asleep easily and awaken several hours later. Sound familiar? If you are among the multitudes of sleep deprived, read on for smart ways to improve the likelihood of getting a good night’s rest, plus a recipe to help send you to slumberland.
Giada: I’m always reading that there is an epidemic of sleep deprivation in this country, but is this really such a health concern that it can be called an epidemic?
Dr. Michael Breus: Yes, it appears to be affecting everyone. Recent research shows that the number of people using sleep aids has risen 150 percent over the last 10 years. Sleep deprivation affects kids, new moms, drivers—you name it. Over time, sleep deprivation affects your ability to lose weight, causes memory loss, impacts cardiac health, and fitness health. Quite frankly, sleep deprivation affects every organ system and every disease state. Sleep is healing, so the less sleep you get the less your body heals when it is sick or injured. And it’s not just about illness or injury—sleep provides the opportunity to heal, renew, and refresh from the stress of everyday life.
GDL: Aside from being fatigued, what is the downside of cheating yourself out of an hour or two of sleep each day?
MB: As you become sleep deprived, your hormones become out of sync. This can have an effect on your ability to lose weight, or it can even make you gain weight. It makes exercise seem more difficult, it can impact your ability to operate a vehicle, and it can place you and loved ones in significant danger.
GDL: What is the connection between sleep and weight gain?
MB: It is mostly hormonal. As you become sleep deprived, your body produces more ghrelin, the hormone that tells you to eat more, and you produce less leptin, the hormone that tells you that you are full. Your metabolism slows down as you become more sleep deprived, and you crave high-sugar, high-carb, and high-fat foods as you get more and more sleep deprived. It is basically a recipe for weight gain.
GDL: I’m a sucker for fancy bed linens; does it just seem like I sleep better between really soft, luxurious sheets, or is that wishful thinking?
MB: The National Sleep Foundation did a survey a few years back and found that clean, nice sheets were something that many consumers felt contributed to a good night’s rest. I think comfort is a key ingredient to a great sleep environment. But a thread count of more than about 500 is probably overkill.
GDL: Does it matter what you wear to bed?