Sleep is a vital part of our daily lives. The majority of human beings spend about a third of every day asleep, because sleep keeps us healthy, re-energizes us and helps our bodies heal and cope with stress. Sleep also comes with a wide variety of benefits, and getting a proper amount of sleep can result in improved health in every aspect of your life, from managing weight to improving mental health and focus to preventing and overcoming illness. Many people, however, don’t get the amount of sleep that they really need on a nightly basis. It’s important to find ways to get this sleep so you can function at your best. To commemorate National Sleep Awareness Week, here are some things to know about healthy sleep habits.
How Sleep Works
In short, sleep is based on your “body clock”, or circadian rhythm, which in part involves your body’s sensitivity to light (particularly the natural light of the sun). When the sun sets, our brains begin to release a chemical called melatonin that helps us wind down and give us signals of tiredness so we can recharge for the next day. Sleep allows your body to relax and to more efficiently produce energy for the next day. It also helps with getting rid of toxins and healing and protecting you from harm.
Getting a quality amount of sleep has numerous health advantages, including:
- Better productivity and concentration while doing activities during the day
- Improved heart and vital organ function
- Improved physical fitness, athletic performance and sexual function
- Decreased strain on your body’s metabolism
- More efficient digestion and use of nutrients from food
- Higher social and emotional function
- Improved mental health, especially where anxiety and depression are concerned
- Strengthened immune system
- Reduced inflammation throughout the body
Getting Quality Sleep
Sleep works best when you set up a routine to allow it to work. Since the majority of adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, it’s important to plan when these 7-9 hours will take place. It’s also important to figure out how much sleep you need, since everyone’s sleep needs are different. This may require experimenting with your sleep schedule or discussing your sleeping patterns with a doctor in order to figure out how much you need.
Today, many people’s routines are not conducive to getting quality sleep. The light from electronic screens that we often use at night stimulates the brain rather than allowing it to ease into a state of restfulness. Plus, many people eat late meals or do significant amounts of physical or mental work late at night. These routines can disrupt your body’s natural rhythms and sleep needs, causing you to feel more run-down and affecting your body’s ability to function as it should. Here are some things you can do or avoid doing to improve your sleep.
Reserve Your Bed For Sleep and Intimacy
Make a commitment to use for your bed solely as the place where you rest every night. While doing daily activities in bed can feel comfortable and cozy, you’ll get better sleep if you mentally set aside your bed as a place where you can rest rather than be physically or mentally active. Additionally, try to keep other items off your bed, and keep your linens and bed sheets clean so you have a hygienic place to rest your head or be intimate with a partner.
Be Careful With Napping
Napping during the day can be an excellent, rejuvenating activity. However, napping for a long period of time can mess up your sleep schedule and cause you to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Try to only nap for 15-30 minutes at a time, as this will help you avoid falling into a deep sleep and messing up your chances of getting a good night’s sleep later on.
Create A Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine is just as much about going to bed on time as it is about getting up early. For many people, getting up early requires them to practice a regular bedtime routine. This can include brushing your teeth, taking a shower, setting out the next morning’s clothing, preparing breakfast or lunch for the next day and doing other wind-down activities like reading or stretching. Turn off or set aside all electronics for 30-60 minutes before going to bed to allow your brain a chance to begin winding down, and opt for screen-free activities like reading, writing or drawing. It’s also important to set a specific time to go to bed and get up each day, as consistency in your sleep schedule will yield many benefits.
Since your natural circadian rhythm is connected to the rising and setting of the sun, try to get outside whenever possible and allow your body to take in its light. People who spend extensive time outdoors often have excellent sleep patterns because of this effect.
Regulate Caffeine Intake
Caffeinated drinks like coffee are great if you need a boost throughout the day, but it’s best to avoid them when you’ll be going to bed within a few hours. If you enjoy coffee at all times during the day, you may want to make a switch to decaffeinated coffee as the day progresses to allow your body the chance to come down from its stimulation. Everyone’s body is different, so do your best to learn your own caffeine cut-off and stick to it.
Meditate or Calm Your Mind
For many people, good sleep is hard to come by because their thoughts are still moving at a million miles per hour when they get into bed. This can be solved by practicing mindful breathing, stretching and meditation exercises and even journaling before bedtime.
We Can Help!
If you’re struggling to get quality sleep at night, it may be time to consult with a doctor about your needs. For some, getting quality sleep may require medication or mental health treatment. Whatever the case may be, we want you to get the best sleep possible so you can function well each and every day. Contact us today to set up an appointment!