This may be a mommy thing, but seeing my babies, (well…anyone’s babies), in peaceful slumber touches my heart. 
They look so precious and peaceful and I admire how most little ones embrace sleep. When it calls – regardless of where or when, they answer. It’s great that they do. That time of still, calm inactivity actually has a lot going on that is essential to good health.  
Most of us know how lack of sleep negatively affects our energy, appearance, cognitive skills, mood and weight.  But did you know that lack of sleep may increase your risk of death?
Research published in the European Heart Journal reports that a chronic lack of sleep, (defined as less than 6 hours per night – oy!), raised the risk of developing or dying from heart disease by 48% and stroke by 15%!  
“When you’re sleeping you’re regulating hormone levels, you’re regulating insulin levels, your blood pressure is being kept under control, there are a lot of things going on, and if you’re not getting enough sleep you’re throwing these things out of whack,” says Shelby Freedman Harris, PsyD, director of behavioral sleep medicine at Montefiore Medical Centers Sleep-Wake Disorders Center in New York City.
How much sleep is optimal? Adults need at least 7, but no more than 9 hours of sleep at night to aid with the prevention of heart disease. Children need 10-12 hours of sleep per night.
7-9 hours not happening?  The National Sleep Foundation recommendations include the following tips for a full night of restorative sleep:
  • Be Active. Daily exercise can greatly enhance the amount and quality of sleep at night. Take note of the time for your exercise.  For some, exercising early in the day is best as a workout close to bedtime makes falling asleep difficult.
  • Be Regular. Go to bed and wake up at the same time. (Yes, this includes weekends.)  The regularity of schedule helps set your sleep cycle.
  • Be Predictable. Think back to your childhood bedtime routine. Bath time, brush teeth, lay out next day’s clothes, story time or reading, prayers, lights out…  The elements of that regular routine helped you wind down and told your body it was time to go to sleep.  Set up a bedtime routine with relaxing ‘unplugged’ tasks that allow your body and mind to slow down before you hit the sheets.
  • Be Comfortable.  Speaking of sheets – set up your bedroom to support rest.  Sleep experts recommend a cool temperature (between 60 – 67 degrees). Outfit your bed with comfortable sheets, pillows and a appropriately supportive mattress. Cut off electronics, eliminate light and distracting noises. 
  • Be aware of sleep disrupting substances. The consumption of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and spicy foods close to bedtime can hinder your rest. If you indulge in these items, do so earlier in the day to keep sleep happy.

More tips for good sleep can be found at the National Sleep Foundation website.
How many hours per sleep do you get per night?  What’s your best good sleep tip?
Image Sources: brainrules.blogspot.com, smartnetzone.com, myyearoffaith.com, Wholenewmom.com

References: References: health.com, drsinatra.com, National Sleep Foundation 

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