Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday! Do you ever envy Sleeping Beauty? If so, you may be one of the millions of people who don’t get enough sleep.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
Sleep is necessary for proper brain function.
Sleep helps our brains prepare for the next day by its own cleaning process. It also helps us to “commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation” (Harvard Health).
A lack of proper rest can cause our brains to suffer. According to Dr. Daniel Amen, author of Change Your Brain Change Your Life, “One of the fastest ways to hurt your brain is to get less than seven or eight hours of sleep at night.” He goes on to say, “Getting less than six hours of sleep at night has been associated with lower overall blood flow to the brain, and hurts your mood, focus, and memory for days after.”
Proper amounts of sleep can help you stay healthy physically.
Sleep allows our bodies to recover. It’s involved in repairing our hearts and blood vessels, even out hormone levels, and build our immune systems. Sleep is absolutely vital for cell renewal.
A lack of proper sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, elevated hormone levels (including insulin), and altered immune function.
Sleep contributes to good mental health.
As mentioned above, the proper amount of sleep can make learning new information easier. It can also help improve problem-solving skills. It assists with decision-making, creativity, and focus as well.
When we don’t get enough sleep, we may suffer from irritability, impatience, or depression. We may also have trouble concentrating or handling change.
These are only a few of the reasons proper rest can be so important to our overall wellness, but you can see how critical it is. If it’s that important, what can we do to make sure we’re getting enough of it? Here are some tips I found:
Tips to Improve Sleep
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends. It’s tempting to sleep in on the weekend, but sticking to a schedule can help regulate your body’s clock.
- Make sure your bedroom is restful and relaxing. Of all the places in your home, your bedroom should be your haven; the place you can go to de-stress and relax. Some considerations for whether it fits the bill might be temperature, amount of light coming in, distractions such as noise, TV, etc.
- Sleep on a good mattress. A comfortable mattress can make all the difference. I speak from experience here – when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my doctor’s first piece of advice to me was that I get a good mattress.
- Get regular exercise, but don’t exercise within a couple of hours of going to bed. Participating in regular physical exercise can help us sleep better, but for some people exercising close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Meditate. Studies have shown that regular meditation can help you sleep better.
- Avoid eating heavy foods late at night. Eating rich or heavy foods can increase your body temperature (ever heard of the ‘meat sweats’?), and of course, cause indigestion, which makes it hard to fall asleep.
- Stay away from caffeine late in the day. We usually think of coffee and tea as the major caffeine culprits, but remember cola and chocolate also contain caffeine.
- Give yourself an hour or so to wind down before bed. Do some sort of calming activity such as reading to give your mind and body time to wind down a little before you go to bed.
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom. Obviously this wouldn’t apply if you spend most of your daylight hours in there as well due to illness. In that case, just turn off devices an hour or two before bed. Studies have shown that the blue light from these devices can make it hard to fall asleep, and of course, if you haven’t turned off notifications, all those dings and buzzes can wake you in the middle of the night.
- If you can’t fall asleep, don’t continue to lie there. If you haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes or so, it may be a good idea to get up, go in another room, and do something relaxing, such as reading or coloring until you get sleepy.
- If you continue to have trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about it. Sleep deprivation is too big a problem to ignore. Since it can affect all areas of our wellness, it’s important that we do everything we can to help improve the quantity and quality of sleep we get. This includes asking our doctor for help if we need it.
Sleep is critical to good health, but many of us don’t get enough of it. Finding things that help us sleep better can impact our wellness in many ways. It may take a little experimentation because just as with everything else, what works for one person might not work for another, but a good night’s rest is worth the work.
What are your tips for getting better sleep? Please share!
Daniel G. Amen, M.D. Change Your Brain Change Your Life. (New York, NY: Harmony Books, 1998), 80 – 81.