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Health resolutions should include rest
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Diet and exercise are popular New Year’s resolutions, but sleep is just as important when cultivating healthy lifestyles.
Sleep deprivation can cause a myriad of health concerns in both adults and children, including excess body fat, said Lori Elmore-Staton, an assistant professor in the Mississippi State University School of Human Sciences.
“Sleep is related to obesity. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more hormones telling you that you’re hungry, and it releases less hormones telling you that you’re full. It thinks you need more energy because something is wrong,” Elmore-Staton explained.
But sleep affects more than just body weight; it is related to strokes, heart attacks, memory function, negative moods, reaction times in accidents, and higher levels of depression and anxiety.
“Researchers used to believe that sleep problems were a side effect of depression, but with long-term studies, it has been shown that too little sleep can change your brain chemistry and cause depression,” Elmore-Staton said.
“As far as general mood, things that may not bother you on a typical day with your roommate may get on your nerves when you’re lacking sleep,” she said. “You may be in a more negative mood, but you may also perceive other people’s behavior to be more negative.”
Elmore-Staton said if people can find ways to improve their sleeping patterns, their quality of life can significantly enhance in most areas, including relationships.
“The less sleep we get, the more likely we are to have conflict. Lack of sleep may make us overreact to arguments that we may otherwise push aside as not worth our time and effort,” Elmore-Staton said. “Even if only one person in the family is getting less sleep than needed, the entire family is impacted.”
Leflore County Extension agent Jennifer Russell said couples can unknowingly bring suffering to their marriages this way.
“As a golden rule, get the sleep that you need so that you do not take it out on your family. Sleep reaps benefits like more joy and laughter in the home,” Russell said.
Her No. 1 tip for making sleep a priority is to establish a family-wide bedtime -- and be consistent with maintaining it.
“You can dim the lights or set a timer for the television to turn off after a certain amount of time if you or your partner must have noise to fall asleep,” Russell said. “You can also use earphones to block out noise.”
She encouraged parents to train their children to go to sleep at a specific time. Parents can help children sleep peacefully by limiting their liquid or sugar intake in the hours before bedtime.
“You have to find the methods that work for your household and stick with them. Routines make for a friendly, easy environment in the home,” Russell explained.
Elmore-Staton and Russell both recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night for adults, but children can range anywhere from nine to eleven; teenagers eight to 10; and infants as much as 12-15 hours daily.