Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why Sleeping is (Almost) More Important Than Breathing

Lucy Danziger, SELF Editor-in-Chief : Why Sleeping is (Almost) More Important Than Breathing
Posted Mon, Apr 21, 2008, 11:29 am PDT

I used to pull all-nighters back in college, forcing myself to stay awake to cram for an exam or finish a paper on art history, my major. I did it because I thought it would help me get ahead, but in the end it always set me back—I wound up tired, cranky and unproductive the next day.

Even though I've grown up (and wisened up) since then, I still have trouble convincing myself to crawl into bed at night: I keep a running tally of all the things I haven't crossed off my to-do list—reading manuscripts, prepping for a TV appearance, even laundry! And I'm always tempted to stay up just a bit longer to get everything done before morning.

So what stops me from burning the midnight oil? Not only has personal experience proved that I'll be more stressed (not to mention less chipper) when I'm sleep-deprived, but studies suggest that not getting adequate zzz's can increase your risk for heart disease and depression, and even cause weight gain (ever found yourself heading to the fridge or the vending machine when you're tired? I have!).

Try these tips to help relax before you hit the sack:

Avoid having long conversations on your cell phone before bed: Researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit found that people who were exposed to the slight radiation that emanates from cell phones took longer to fall asleep and spent less time in the deep stages of slumber.

Make Your Bedroom a Haven
Draw the blinds and turn on a fan or a soothing CD of nature noises to block out distracting sounds. Swapping ordinary bedroom bulbs for yellow ones (GE makes a 25-watt version sold at drugstores) can help you feel more tranquil as you're getting ready to nod off. Consider treating yourself to a cozy new comforter or putting flowers on your nightstand so that being in your bedroom—and sleeping!—becomes something you look forward to.

Say Thanks
Once you're under the covers, take two minutes to reflect on the things you're grateful for. Studies show that practicing grateful thinking makes people more optimistic. And going to sleep with happy thoughts will help you sleep more soundly.