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by Christel Swasey

The Health Danger of Sleep Loss

Debates about the exact number of hours of sleep that an individual needs vary, but scientists do agree that sleep loss is dangerous.  Sleep loss increases our risk of high blood pressure, weight gain, depression, and leads toward associated diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.  Sleep loss impairs our ability to perform and seriously dampens our moods (which we already knew before the studies confirmed it.)

How do you know if you are consistenly too low on sleep?

Some sleep researchers say that a simple test to take, to know if you are too low on sleep, is simply this:  did you need an alarm clock to wake up this morning?  People who wake up before the alarm, or who wake without an alarm, are probably getting the right amount of sleep.  People who cannot wake up without the alarm, are probably suffering from sleep loss.

The risks to health from ongoing lack of sleep are serious. If your job or lifestyle creates habitual sleep loss for you,  consider making a drastic change or you may risk serious health problems later.

Sleep experts recommend that if you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep:

  • Exercise routinely, but do not exercise at night.
  • Take a hot bath before bed.
  • Do not keep work or any form of media in the bedroom.  Artificial light from t.v. sets, computers, or phones mess up your body clock.  This can prevent your body from releasing melatonin, the chemical that helps us sleep.
  • Keep a notepad and a pen right next to your bed.  If you wake up stressed about something you have to remember to do, jot it down (in the dark; don’t turn on the light.)
  • Do not eat a sugary snack before bedtime. A junk-sugar snack is less likely to help you sleep by setting off the roller-coaster of soaring and sinking blood sugar levels, followed by the release of stress hormones that keep you awake.
  • The evening meal should contain complex carbohydrates with a small amount of protein (because the protein’s tryptophan relaxes the brain.)
  • Try milk.  Calcium helps the brain use tryptophan to manufacture sleep-inducing melatonin. This is why many people like to drink milk at bedtime.  Milk contains both tryptophan and calcium.
  • If you can’t fall asleep within about fifteen minutes, get up and do something boring– in the living room.  (Not in the bedroom)  Example:  read the labels on your appliances or the directions for machine assembly, in all the languages they are written in.
  • Get up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends, and do not take naps.
  •  In the morning, make the first thing you do, going to face the sun for fifteen minutes.  This tells your inner clock to begin operating and will end up helping you sleep later.

 

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