Did you know that losing just two hours of sleep a night can lead to a “sleep debt” that could wreck havoc on your immune system and your ability to learn, memorize and function mentally? Missing out on the recommend eight hours of nightly sleep for two weeks — something millions of Americans are guilty of, equals a total sleep deprivation of two full nights, according to a new study.

“And the most worrisome part of this is these people don’t realize how sleep-deprived they really are,” says Hans P.A. Van Dongen, PhD, lead researcher and assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “When people are put through chronic sleep deprivation, there is an initial response where they say, ‘OK, this is not optimal but I’ll manage.’ But after a few days of this, things are much worse than they realize.”

According to Dr. Van Dongen, people simply don’t actually realize how tired they are. “They have slower reaction time, weakened memory, and other thinking impairments.” Numerous studies have documented the effect of inadequate rest on our bodies, and our minds.   The conclusions are the same in all studies, when the brain is deprived of sleep optimal cognitive function and learning is severely affected. The results of deprivation are more medications, memory lapses, slower reaction times, accidents, and more trips to the doctor.

The good news is, you can actually catch up and reinvigorate with a few days of good sleep, which includes no distractions and interruptions. There are also a few good sleep aids that will get you started in that direction:

1. Warm Milk. This is not an old wive’s tale, warm milk contains tryptophan, which is a natural sleep aid, and sipping a warm beverage also has a soothing effect.

2. Drink Chamomile Tea. Although it doesn’t have any natural sleep chemicals, it’s safe and relaxing. The calming effect will help you sleep better.

3.   A Bowl of Oatmeal with Milk and Walnuts or Almonds.   This is a good bedtime snack that combines carbohydrates and protein. A warm bowl of cereal with milk has the same effect of warm milk, plus the nuts are brain food to help memory improvement.

4. Bananas. For a great bedtime snack that acts as a muscle relaxer, eat a banana. It contains natural chemicals tryptophan, melatonin, serotonin, and magnesium. Try it on toast with peanut butter!

5. Hummus. The perfect mix of protein and carbohydrates, hummus is great with some pita.

6. A Cup of Yogurt. Containing both protein and carbohydrates, yogurt is a light mix that will fill you up without making you feel stuffed, and it has wonderful disease preventative properties.

From the Desk of Ron White

 

 

Sources:

Memory Zine: http://memoryzine.com/2011/01/13/study-of-sleep-deprivation-identifies-genes-that-hinder-memory/   (Jan. 13, 2011)

WebMd: Sleep Deprivation Leads To Trouble Fast

http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20030314/sleep-deprivation-leads-to-trouble-fast

WebMd: The Toll of Sleep Loss in America

http://www.webmd.com/depression/depression-his-and-hers-6/sleep-loss

National Sleep Foundation: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/sleep-studies

TheDailyMeal.com: 9 Foods to Help You Sleep: http://xfinity.comcast.net/slideshow/news-9foodstohelpsleep/?cid=hero_media