Sleep is often sacrificed, put on the back burner, or even ignored in today's busy, bninge-watching, fast-paced world. Some just find it elusive all together. However, quality sleep is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle; and, getting enough of it is critical for physical, emotional, and mental health, productivity, and overall well-being. Listed below are the crucial benefits of sleep and what we can do to get more of it.
A few reasons why a good night's sleep should be a top priority in your daily routine:
- Physical Health & Weight Management
Sleep is a the heavy-hitter when it comes to your physical health. During sleep,the body repairs and regenerates tissues (including muscles, bones, and organs), and it helps to boost the immune system to ward off infections and diseases. It's no wonder when we are hurt or sick that we tend to sleep a lot. It's our body's way of focusing on repairs so we can get back to our lives.
A growing body of research shows quality sleep also plays a key role in regulating appetite and metabolism. When we don't get enough sleep we have a tendancy to eat more the following day which can not only lead us to emotionally kicking ourselves for lack of restraint, but possibly cause severe health issues in the future.
Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of sickness, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Getting enough sleep can help to reduce these risks and keep your body healthy and functioning properly.
- Emotional & Mental Health
Sleep is equally important for both emotional and mental health as it plays a critical role in memory consolidation - the process by which memories are stored and strengthened in the brain and emotions are processed. This function is imperative in helping us to increase our ability to handle stress, manage emotions, and maintain a positive outlook. It's no wonder that we get moody and irritable and call our kid the dog's name when we haven't gotten enough sleep.
A chronic lack of sleep can be so detrimental that it can increase one's risk of developing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
Sleep is crucial for productivity, especially in school or the workplace. When we are well-rested, we are more alert, focused, and able to concentrate. This can help to improve our comprehension and performance, increase productivity, and reduce the likelihood of errors or accidents. In contrast, lack of sleep can lead to poor decision-making, decreased productivity, and increased absenteeism.
- Athletic Performance
Most athletes and fitness enthusiasts know that sleep is essential to good performance. During sleep, the body produces growth hormones, which help to repair and build muscle tissue. Getting enough sleep can help to improve athletic performance, increase endurance, and reduce the risk of injury. On the other hand, sleep deprivation can lead to decreased reaction time, slower recovery, and impaired motor function.
Prioritizing a good night's sleep offers so many benefits to our overall wellbing, but how to do we actually GET better sleep without popping those little blue sleeping pills?
Better sleep only requires a tweak to your routines and a little bit of determination:
- Use Your Alarm Clock or Tracking Device
One of the most important things you can do to improve your sleep is to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help regulate your body's internal clock and improve the quality of your sleep. If you need a little help, get a tracking device that not only tells you your sleep quality each night but tells you how you did on meeting your sleep time goals.
- Create a Sleep-Conducive Environment
Make sure your bedroom is quiet, cool, and dark, and invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows.
Take a bath or shower and use soothing scented bath salts, bubble bombs, bath bombs, or shower steamers and/or incorporate diffusing essential oils, pillow sprays, or (if you are really lucky) massage oils right before bed to get into the sleep mood. Bath aids, and calming scents like lavender, chamomile, and earthy scents can be superstars for helping you wind down and go to sleep.
3. Limit Screen Time
Try to limit your screen time in the evening, and avoid using electronic devices in the bedroom to improve your sleep (I know, I know - I am bad at this, too), as they can interfere with your sleep. Electronic devices emit blue light, which can interfere with your body's production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
4. Reduce Caffeine/Alcohol Intake & Lay Off the Heavy Meals
Caffeine and alcohol can interfere with or reduce the quality of your sleep and eating a heavy meal close to bedtime can cause gasiness, discomfort, or hearburn (I am looking at you, Spicy Burrito). Ultimately, pay attention to how your body reacts to these type of foods and beverages and choose a time to cut yourself off to promote the best rest possible.
5. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise can help improve the quality of your sleep, as it reduces stress and promotes relaxation. JohnHopkinsMedicine.org suggests 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise a day (like walking) to get immediate results that night. Remember to exercise earlier in the day, if possible, as exercising close to bedtime can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
6. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can help reduce stress and promote relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep. Try practicing these techniques before bedtime to help you unwind and prepare for sleep.
A good night's sleep is within reach. The most important thing to do is to take inventory of what is not working and stop it. Then, create a routine that is calming, and stick to it. Soon you will be getting the sleep we all need and deserve.