Want to improve your physical and mental health? Sleep more | SoHaPP

Local Dr. Merrill will talk about why you need to count more sheep at night.

We spend a third of our life doing it…but what is sleep, and what is it for?

If you want answers, you could always wait for them to come to you in a dream – or you could just head to The Chalet Theatre on Feb. 27, from 7 to 8 p.m. for a free presentation on sleep and how it affects your health by Dr. James Merrill of SoHaPP (the Science of Happiness and Positive Psychology) and the Habits of Happiness.

When compared to other important aspects of health, such as biological and medical health, nutrition, exercise, and spiritual and psychological wellness, the role of sleep has been historically mysterious, until now. It is only in our lifetime that science has truly explored the “whys” and “hows” of sleep.

The work of sleep scientists, pioneers in the field, has forever changed the healthcare landscape and our understanding of sleep health. This increased knowledge has revealed that we are living in a modern technology-driven sleep-sick society. Our culture and our lifestyles are wreaking havoc on our health.

Beyond sleep deprivation, there are a significant number of different diagnosable sleep disorders, and each has dire negative health consequences. We are living through an epidemic of weight issues, metabolic problems, heart and brain disease, psychological and memory disorders, and fatigue-related traffic accidents estimated to be a third of the total, and all of it is negatively impacted by dysfunctional sleep.

Just as facts are stubborn, good sleep is irreplaceable. It is fundamental and essential to our health and well-being. It is the foundation upon which we build a healthy life, and live it to its fullest potential. Sleep plays a crucial role in learning and decision making. Good sleep steadies our emotions and our mental sense of well-being; boosts immune function and activity; stimulates metabolism while moderating appetite; improves learning while slowing memory loss; regulates hormone activity; improves diabetic control; plays a role in cancer prevention; and importantly slows the effects of aging.

The bottom line is this: healthy sleep appears to be more influential in improving our longevity and our quality of life than diet, exercise, or heredity. Exercise and sleep do play roles with each other, as a good night’s sleep enables the body to perform well physically, and an active day leads to deeper sleep.

In the latest installment of the ongoing lecture series focused on mental wellness, SoHaPP is adding a sixth habit – being more Restful – to the Habits for Happiness of being more Positive, Kind, Mindful, Active and Grateful. The basic first step in improving sleep is to establish a regular daily seven to nine hour sleep schedule in a nonhostile sleep environment, devoid of screens/electronics/cell phones. But there is so much more!

To more fully engage all six of these wonderful habits into your life, and to learn what is good sleep, why it is critical, and how one can get it, go to www.sohapp.org.