For many people, sleep has become a luxury they can’t afford. With extended work hours, longer commutes, squeezing in workouts, preparing meals, doing laundry, helping kids with homework, caring for aging parents, we have very little time left in our 24 hour day to sleep. Our sleep time is reduced even further when we tack on watching our favorite TV show, which inevitably is broadcast later than we’d like!
This week, we make the case for overhauling your day so you can get the right amount of quality sleep you need for great health.
The Research Says…
The research on sleep is plentiful. Among many, there are researchers trying to understand why we sleep; researchers who look at what is sleep; and researchers who investigate how sleep affects and is affected by health conditions, psychological states, learning, memory and diseases. All of this research is fascinating and you can learn more by visiting these sites:
Fundamentally, researchers have learned that sleep is essential for wellness. When we sleep, our bodies and brain are working to restore what’s been depleted during wakefulness; and in fact, “…many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.” (http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/why-do-we-sleep)
Sleep is also powerful for our cognitive functioning, as it aids in our ability to learn, memorize and perform tasks. You might think the brain is asleep with us but during sleep, the brain is actively reshaping itself and consolidating our memories and experiences of the day by strengthening its neural connections. Have you every gone to bed thinking about an issue and woken up the next day with a solution? Well, that’s the brain at work while you’re sleeping!
When you don’t sleep you are depriving yourself of all these wonderful benefits.
Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to increased chances of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, mood disorders, reduced immune function, increased alcohol use, and reduced life expectancy.
Although as individuals our base need for sleep varies, sleep experts suggest that on average adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Adolescents and kids need more sleep than that. One article from the Sleep Foundation also notes that many people live with “sleep debt” which suggests that lack of proper amount of sleep each night or a few nights in a row has a cumulative effect. Catching up on sleep lost is important to get yourself back on track.
You want to sleep but you’re having trouble getting to sleep? Here are some suggestions to help:
- Create a consistent schedule for sleep – Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning. Stick to this schedule even on weekends.
- Establish a soothing bedtime routine – Get your body and brain ready for sleep by establishing a routine before bedtime. Some people like to take a bath or read a book before sleep. Be sure that it’s something relaxing versus something that increases alertness.
- Turn down the lights – As you get closer to bedtime, dim down the lights in your house. Our bodies respond to natural cycles of the day so we can get our bodies regulated to sleep by creating a dark environment.
- Avoid caffeine late in day (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate) – Caffeine is a stimulant and stays in your body for several hours so it may interfere with sleep.
- Exercise earlier in the day – Finish exercising at least 3 hours before bedtime. Exercise will make you tired and help you sleep but since it increases your cortisol levels, which creates alertness, you’ll want to get it done early in the day.
- Eat lighter dinner meals – Especially if you eat later at night, be sure to eat lighter meals or just a snack. Avoid indigestion and disrupted sleep by eating several hours before bedtime.
In the comments below, please share with us your best tip for a better sleep.
Your intentions for a good night’s sleep are there but you just can’t seem to follow through on them. One night of little sleep is okay if you can catch up; however, a consecutive routine of sleep-poor nights is not acceptable! If you find that the latter is happening, then take a snapshot of your typical day and deconstruct it:
- What are you typically doing in a day? Consider all work and personal related tasks.
- On days when you get less sleep, what is getting in the way? What can you do to change that?
- In your daily routine, what is truly important? If it helps you achieve your personal goals, for instance spending more time with your family, then keep doing it. On the other hand, if it’s something you’ve become used to doing like answering all your emails, then consider ways to minimize the task.
- Some tasks are just necessary but not that important. For instance, getting the laundry done or cleaning the house. These tasks or part of them can be delegated to others. For instance, have your children help you sort and match socks; get other family members helping with meal preparation.
The overhauling is endless if you keep asking yourself, “Is this really important to my life?” Consider how you can eliminate, rearrange, delegate or just do things more efficiently so you can get the sleep you need.