To start improving your health today, there's just one thing you need to do...
Get a good night's sleep.
But that's not always easy to do. If you're like a lot of people, your quality of sleep starts slipping as the summer season hits. And this summer is no exception... More folks have grappled with insomnia and anxiety than in past years, due to fears around the pandemic. And that has taken a toll on our health.
Sleep plays an extremely important role in our health. For instance, sleeping relaxes your brain cells, causing them to shrink, which, in turn, allows waste products to seep through the extracellular space and exit the brain faster. Clearing out those waste products keeps our brain cells healthy and functioning well.
Not getting the right amount of sleep means your immune system will not function as well as it could, leaving you more likely to develop colds or chronic diseases. Over time, not getting enough quality sleep also increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It has even been linked to accelerated skin aging, higher Alzheimer's risk, and low sex drive.
Scientists do know how we fall asleep – it happens through a chemical process in our brains. Your internal "thermostat" is located in a part of your brain called the hypothalamus. This region secretes a hormone that effectively lowers your core body temperature and promotes sleep.
The thermostat corresponds with your body's natural 24-hour cycle, called your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm relies on cues from your environment (like temperature, light, and lifestyle) to trigger when it's time to sleep.
That's why the most common cause of summertime insomnia is soaring temperatures. Hotter air doesn't just make you uncomfortable... it can also keep you from getting a full night's sleep.
That's why the key to a good night's sleep this time of year is making sure you keep your bedroom cool.
Every person has a slightly different comfort range, but for better sleep, aim for about 68 degrees Fahrenheit or a little lower. Many studies link the body's temperature regulation with sleep patterns, which is why you become sleepy in colder temperatures.
One of the most crucial parts of the sleep cycle – rapid eye movement ("REM") sleep – can suffer in hotter temperatures. That's because during REM, your body loses its ability to sweat or shiver. If the room is too warm, your body temperature will rise to match it, bringing you back to a point of almost wakefulness. If it's too hot, you can even wake up completely, ruining the quality of your sleep.
Thankfully, you can keep cool without breaking the bank. To start, you can install a programmable thermostat to save on energy costs. Health & Wealth Bulletin managing editor Laura did this a few years ago. Installing a programmable thermostat can save the average household hundreds of dollars per year. Just set a lower temperature for the hours that you're asleep and then a higher temperature for the rest of the day.
For every degree you have it set above 72 degrees Fahrenheit, you can save about 2% on your monthly bill. Some energy suppliers also offer discount plans where they actually adjust your thermostat from their headquarters by a certain number of degrees during times of peak usage.
Other ways to stay cool and save money include cleaning and replacing your HVAC system's air filter on a regular basis. Clogged or worn-out filters make it harder for the air to flow through the air conditioning system. You can also do what I do and have an individual unit in your bedroom and turn it on only when sleeping.
Finally, use a ceiling fan to circulate the air. It won't lower the temperature of the room, but the air movement will help sweat evaporate from your skin, helping you cool down. You can also use fans to help circulate air from an air conditioner, allowing you to reduce the settings on the unit and save on energy costs.
Or do what I do and put a little water on your arms, neck, head, and even legs if you're having trouble falling asleep. The fan, or just natural cooling of your body, will put you sound asleep before you can count 30 sheep.
Summertime insomnia has a few other causes as well. I've covered them in-depth in Retirement Millionaire. Click here to read the full issue. If you're not already a subscriber, click here to get started today.
What We're Reading...
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 11, 2020