FORT MEADE, Md. -- The average person sees a health care provider just five times a year for 20 minutes a session -- a hundred minutes. That leaves 525,500 minutes during the year to engage in healthy behaviors that enhance and promote health and wellness.
This majority of time is known as the life space.
Decisions made pertaining to daily life activities -- specifically nutrition, activity and sleep -- will make a greater difference to your health than the 100 minutes visiting your health care provider.
By better managing our nutrition, sleep and activity (The Performance Triad), we are maximizing our health and changing our current health care system into a system of health.
Did you know that when you sleep, your brain is being cleansed of toxic chemicals? Your brain conducts maintenance by clearing out chemicals that can cause dementia and possibly Alzheimer's later in life.
Sleeping is to the mind what anti-virus and anti-spyware is to your computer hardware. This software scans the hardware to rid a computer of fragmented information and viruses that make the computer work slower or worse -- not at all.
Sleep, like this software, refreshes the mind, ridding it of toxic chemicals that can cause indecisiveness, confusion and difficulty learning.
Researchers found that mouse brains injected with the toxic substance called beta amyloid, which is found in Alzheimer's patients, cleared quicker from the brains in mice that slept more. Those that slept more had less toxins remaining in their brains because while sleeping, the brain cells shrink, leaving more room between cells for toxins and waste to flow out of the brain. It is a natural way to cleanse the brain.
This same study was conducted with similar results on baboons and dogs. It is thought that the human brain reacts the same way to sleep.
Although the recommended amount of sleep to maintain a healthy mind, body and attitude is eight hours a day, many people get much less.
An Army study examining the sleep habits of 3,152 Soldiers showed that sleep problems are very common in redeployed Soldiers. More than 70 percent of these Soldiers suffered from a condition called Short Sleep Duration, sleeping an average of four to seven hours per day.
Short Sleep Duration was defined in the study as less than seven hours per night. Of the respondents, 77 percent had experienced combat exposure. Lack of sleep was just one symptom of combat exposure. Other symptoms are depression, PTSD, panic syndrome and high-risk health behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol abuse, and suicide attempts -- all of which are exacerbated by inadequate sleep.
By re-establishing good sleep habits, Short Sleep Duration and associated symptoms of combat exposure are lessened.
By allowing the brain to rest for eight hours a day, your thought process will be faster, your energy level will be greater, and your overall physical, emotional and mental health will be optimized.
Sleep is the best medicine for the mind; it is inexpensive, enjoyable and has no side effects.
If you don't get eight hours of sleep a day, take the Army Medicine "Sleep 8 for 8 Challenge." Get eight hours of sleep for eight consecutive days. Share your techniques for falling asleep with others who suffer from Short Sleep Duration.
To learn about the "Sleep Challenge" and the Performance Triad and to access useful tools that pertain to exercise, healthy eating and sleep, go to: http://armymedicine.mil/Pages/Home.aspx.