As the Holidays wind down and we settle back into the regular routine, it is a wonderful time to make sure to prioritize sleep for optimal health. Most adults require a full 8 hours of rest. Some require a bit less, others require some more. Here are just 3 of the many benefits of getting proper rest.

1) Alertness and Personal Safety

People in any line of work function far better at home and at work with adequate rest.

While it is true for everyone, drivers face special risks. “Drowsy driving” happens when a driver operates a vehicle with insufficient sleep.  The risks and results of drowsy driving can be devastating.  Drowsy drivers have a harder time paying attention to the road and have slower reaction times. In 2016, CAA conducted a study showing that 20% of accidents in Canada are caused by drowsy driving.

2) Faster Healing time/Better Immune System

Sleep provides your body with the downtime required to focus on healing injured tissue and to fight off infections and disease. The fever and the flu always seem to show themselves this time of year and one of the best ways to defend against it is a good sleep. When your body is fatigued it is not able to allocate the appropriate resources to help fight against these infections.

3) Healthy Weight Management

Your body produces special hormones that tell your body when you are hungry (called ghrelin) and that you are full (called leptin). Proper sleep keeps them at normal levels, and can help with weight management.

My life is too busy! How am I supposed to get more sleep?

Our hyper-connected lifestyles offer challenges to getting enough sleep. Try a few of the changes below.

  • “Unplug” from devices like cell phones, computers, TV’s and tablets an hour or more before bedtime. The blue light they emit interferes with sleep hormone production. Your body thinks it’s not dark yet, so you are less likely to feel tired.
  • Record or PVR your favorite nighttime shows instead of staying up to watch them. Plus it is more fun to binge watch them on a rainy day anyways?
  • If you live in the city or work shifts, you may benefit from “blackout curtains”. These curtains block out the daylight, or the night time ambient light from street lights and signs that may be around your home.
  • Create a ritual. Enjoying some herbal tea, doing some light reading or having a nice bath each evening can help you relax and ease into sleep.
  • Avoid the nightcap. An alcoholic drink may help you relax at first, but it can also disrupt your sleep later in the night or cause night time heartburn.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise a few hours before bed. Exercise is wonderful earlier in the day but will raise your temperature and heart rate-not, which are not ideal for rest.

If you are having continued difficulty sleeping, please consult a medical professional. You may suffer from conditions such as sleep disorders and sleep apnea. If you are feeling tired and are behind the wheel, pull over to a safe location and have a rest before continuing to drive, or park your vehicle and call a taxi, a ride share, or someone who is well rested and can pick you up.