We all know that sleep is important. Yes, many of us still struggle with getting enough sleep. In fact, there are some people that pride themselves on the fact that they function on little or no sleep! Wearing our sleep deficiency as a badge of honor is not as wonderful as it may seem. In the past, I was very guilty of this, often sleeping as little as 2 hours a night and working 18 hours a day! I was running myself down, full speed ahead!
Before we talk about what we can do to get better sleep. Let’s look at what sleep DOES do for us. What are the benefits of a good night’s sleep?
Benefits of Sleep:
- Helps your brain to function properly
- Improves learning and problem-solving skills
- Healing and repaid of your heart and blood vessels
- Helps maintain hormonal balance
- Affects your immune system and your ability to stay healthy
- Forming and consolidating memories
- Curbs inflammation[i]
- Decreases daytime fatigue and increases stamina
- Sharpens your attention
- Contributes to a healthy weight
- Lowers stress levels
So, what will sleep deficiency, lack of sleep or lack of good sleep consistently do for us?
Sleep deficiency leads to:
- Trouble making decisions
- Controlling emotions and behavior
- Coping with change
- Linked to depression, suicide and risk-taking behavior
- Increases risk of obesity
- Can result in elevated sugar levels, may increase risk for diabetes
- In children and teens, can cause problems getting along with others, mood swings and impulsive behaviors
- Can be very dangerous if driving. Driving while sleepy has been shown to be just as bad, if not worse than someone who is driving drunk.
What can we do to get better sleep? What are some tips for those of us that struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep?
According to the National Sleep Foundation[ii], there are six things we can do to ensure a better night’s sleep.
- Stick to a Routine/Schedule – Try going to be and waking up at the same time each day, INCLUDING weekends.
- Bedtime Ritual – Develop a relaxing routing for yourself. Coach’s note: Try turning off the electronics at least one hour before your intended bedtime. This includes your Kindle, opt for a traditional book with pages instead.
- Avoid Naps if you are a Troubled Sleeper – Naps may help during the day, but may keep you up at night. If naps do not affect your sleep schedule, go for it!
- Move! Exercise daily, whether vigorous or light. Our bodies were meant to move, so we need to get off the couch and get going!
- Environment – What does your room look like where you sleep? It should be cool (60-67 degrees), free from noise and bright light, and any other disruptions. If needed, have blackout curtains, ear plugs, eye mask, good pillows, etc.
- Comfortable Mattress and Pillow – Be sure your mattress and pillows are comfy. Most mattresses last about 9-10 years, pillows need to be replaced more often.
Some other things to consider:
- Melatonin to help you fall asleep…be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking this to ensure no potential interactions
- Essential Oils, such as lavender for relaxation
- Herbal Tea as part of your bedtime ritual
- Watch how caffeine affects you and be cautious of having it late in the day or evening
- Meditation before bed
- Reading before bed
- Turning off all electronics, phone, TV, computer, games, tablet, iPad, Kindles, etc. an hour before bed
- If you do not have a set bedtime, begin the process of establishing one. Your body will thank you!