Now that it’s January, hopefully, the busyness of the holiday season is but a distant memory. I don’t know about you, but by the end of all the planning, wrapping, cooking, and events, I usually feel I have run a marathon and am looking forward to the finish line where I can get some much-needed rest. How about you? Unfortunately, that is one present you never find wrapped under the tree – a much-needed rest. However, who says you can’t give it to yourself now? It’s not too late; in fact, it’s the perfect time to give it to yourself to start the new year right. Everyone needs a good night’s sleep. Every night!
Why we don’t get a good night’s sleep
Because we live in such a fast-paced society, the benefits of a good night’s rest can be easily overlooked. Many of us do not make it a practice to get the sleep we need. We know the quantity and/or quality of sleep our bodies require is important. But too often, we “borrow” time from our sleep, thinking we can make it up later. Does that ever really work?
Sleep deprivation can cause mental and physical distress
Traditionally, sleep problems were once viewed as symptoms of a psychiatric disorder. However, studies now suggest that sleep problems may raise your risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression, along with physical problems, such as a weakened immune system, cardiovascular problems, and other illnesses.
Our brains need time to reboot
During the day, our brains take in a vast amount of information. And instead of that information being directly taken in and recorded, these facts and experiences first need to be processed and stored. It is during sleep that many of these steps happen.
Overnight, all of the information we ingest during the day is transferred from more temporary, short-term memory to more substantial, long-term memory through a process called “consolidation.” Isn’t it amazing that our brains can do that while in slumber?
Sleeping well is as essential to your health as eating, drinking, and breathing. While you sleep, your brain repairs your body — physically and mentally. In the deepest sleep stages, tissues grow, muscles relax, and energy is restored. Sleep restores hormones, skin cells, liver functions, heart health, and even more. So you see, sleeping is more than just resting after a full day — it’s more like an overall “tune-up” of our mind and body.
SIGNS OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP
- being cranky, moody, irritable, short-tempered
- having a hard time concentrating or staying focused on tasks
- feel like you are dragging throughout the day, excessive yawning
- cravings for sugary or fatty foods resulting in weight gain
- you get sick often
- feeling forgetful
- change in appearance, red, puffy eyes, dark circles under eyes, sallow skin
- feeling depressed
So, what are your sleep habits? Are you consistently getting a good night’s sleep? If you are, great! If not, tonight is the right time to start! Good sleep habits can help you get the good night’s sleep you need. Here are just four habits that can help you to improve your sleep health:
1. Create and stick to a sleep schedule
It is recommended that adults get at least seven hours and usually no more than 8 hours of sleep per night. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Being consistent each night and even on the weekends will help reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle. If you don’t fall asleep within the first 20 minutes, get out of bed and relax, such as reading or listening to soothing music. When you start to feel tired, go back to bed. This might need to be repeated.
2. Design a sleep friendly bedroom.
Your room should make you feel peaceful and relaxed. Look around. Does your room look relaxing, or does it look like a jumbled-up mess? It helps if you keep it clean and uncluttered. Also, keeping the room dark, quiet, and comfortable, usually on the cool side, is best. You should remove any electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, or smartphones, as they can hinder you from sleeping well.
3. Limit what you eat and drink before bedtime.
Eating a heavy or oversized meal within a few hours of bedtime can disrupt sleep. Once you eat, your metabolism fires up, making it difficult to fall asleep as well as sleep soundly. Coffee, sodas, teas, and even chocolate contain caffeine that can take as much as eight hours to fully wear off, so a late afternoon cup of coffee could interfere with falling asleep at night. And while you might consider an alcoholic drink to encourage sleep, it’s not the healthiest solution for a good night’s rest. Drinking can rob you of deep and REM sleep, keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep.
4. Get some exercise.
That is, during the day – right before bed, not so much. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night. However, try not to exercise within 2 to 3 hours before your bedtime. The activities before bedtime should be calm, such as reading, bathing, or using a relaxation technique to promote better sleep.
Sleep is an investment in the energy you need to be effective tomorrow. — Tom Roth
Many other helpful tips can help induce a good night’s sleep, such as not taking naps after 3pm, managing worries and concerns, and having a good mattress and pillow, etc. Still, the four I specifically pointed out are some biggies.
I can’t stress enough just how vital a good night’s sleep is to your physical and mental well-being. While sleeping well is not a guarantee of good health, it does help to maintain many of your body’s vital functions. There is ample evidence to show that getting the right kind and right amount of sleep each night makes you feel better and increases the odds of living a healthier, more productive life.
If your sleep regimen needs some tweaking and you want to discover what is in the way of getting that good night’s sleep, working with a coach is an excellent way to get some much-needed answers.
This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.