Improving Health And Sleep

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The girl looking back at me in the mirror today is different compared to the girl in the mirror a month ago. My English professor assigned us to research and write a paper on health, and to implement the change for a month. According to one of the books I used in my research, The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep written by Lawrence Epstein and Steven Mardon, research has shown that daily mental performance and health are directly related to quantity and quality of sleep (Epstein and Mardon 38). Progressively in the last few years, as I grew busier with school and work, I have slept substantially less. Effects of lack of sleep such as gaining weight and struggling for a positive outlook on life have had a ripple effect on my education, relationships, and mental and physical health. Although my health has been in jeopardy for some time, it’s been difficult to make the changes necessary to reverse what has happened to my body. Most recently, due to a lack of sleep caused by late hours at work, I turned in the wrong English assignment. While making a health change for my English essay along with needing an improved English grade, I began working on the duration and quality of sleep to improve my health.

Always tired at work and school, I began drinking more caffeine. At first, I was able to keep myself awake and alert with coffee or Diet Coke. Soon, I found myself turning to energy drinks as a source of caffeine, drinking multiple Monster Energy drinks each day. With a caffeine intake between 500 and 600 milligrams a day, it was time for a change. According to the National Sleep Foundation website, “250 mg. of caffeine per day is considered a moderate amount of caffeine, and 500 mg or more is considered excessive.” (“Caffeine and Sleep Disturbance”). An article I read stated, “From the results of this study, it can be concluded that a significant correlation exists between ED (energy drink) consumption and sleep quality and that sleep pattern and bedtime are significantly associated with ED consumption.” (Faris et al. 272). As a result, I chose to limit my caffeine intake to only one caffeinated drink a day and eliminated energy drinks. Abolishing caffeine has been a positive step in ensuring I sleep uninterrupted, longer, and fall asleep earlier.

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Along with reducing caffeine, regular exercise is crucial to aid sleep. According to Epstein and Mardon, “There are three critical benefits that regular exercise has been repeatedly shown to provide: you fall asleep faster, attain a higher percentage of deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night” (56). I decided that to increase the quality of my sleep, I needed to do what Epstein and Mardon suggested. Walking outdoors or exercising in the gym three days a week for thirty minutes a day has become a new pattern for me. Noticing the increased changes in my sleep quality, I checked my observations with the health application on my iPhone. According to my application, I have been falling asleep faster and sleeping longer. Daily exercise has increased my quantity and quality of sleep resulting in increased health.

For several years, I have considered sleep unimportant. I have slept less to complete homework, to work, and to hang out with my friends. According to my research, averaging five to six hours of sleep a night was not enough to ensure my health and mental focus. “Adults really do need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to ensure optimal physical and mental functioning. Those who think the rules don’t apply to them, research proves, are simply wrong.” (Pevzner 51). “Examples of not getting enough sleep are needing an alarm clock to wake up, being tired, irritable, and stressed during the day or every day, having trouble concentrating and remembering, feeling drowsy while driving, having dark circles under the eyes, and seeming not to have any creativity or problem-solving skills.” (Isphording 146). Struggling in all these areas, I began increasing the time I sleep to at least eight hours per night. Less irritable and more focused and aware, my grades have increased along with timely submission of assignments. Changing the quantity of my sleep has helped with my mental clarity and my overall physical health.

Increased and uninterrupted sleep has created a positive change in my life. As a result of the research I have read and changes made based on that research, I have lost four pounds. Those around me have noticed my positive outlook, and my grades, minus my English grade, have improved. Through my research and the subsequent lifestyle changes I have made, exercising, reducing caffeine, and ensuring eight hours of sleep have positively impacted my health and happiness.


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