50 Ways to Stay Well # 30 – Sleep

What’s one thing we tend to sacrifice when things get busy? Sometimes it’s exercise and other times it’s sleep (sometimes it’s both). Sleep is a vital process that everybody must go through daily in order for their bodies to rest and regenerate. So why are so many people cutting down their hours of sleep?

Sometimes you have no choice such as working nightshift or having a new baby, but often it’s due to stress, a hectic schedule, or you get sucked into that new show on Netflix. But sleep should be at the top of your list of priorities!

Sleep helps your brain work properly. It helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.

Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

There are a wide variety of benefits from getting enough sleep and a few include;

  • You’ll be happier.
  • You’ll be able to build muscle more easily.
  • You’ll learn better.
  • People who sleep enough have better moods and fewer problems with depression and anxiety.
  • You’ll be more productive at work and more focused at home.
  • You’ll increase your immune system
  • You’ll be less easily irritated or upset.

Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

(Source: National Sleep Foundation)

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.

 

  1. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.

 

  1. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.

 

  1. Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.

 

  1. Evaluate your room. Your bedroom should be cool, between 60 and 67 degrees, and free from any noise or any light. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.

 

  1. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses.

 

  1. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.

 

  1. If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment.

Resources

Lethbridge Sleep Clinic

Canadian Sleep Society

Deepak Chopra’s Guided Meditation for Deep Sleep (Yoga Journal)

 

Articles

Why is Sleep Important? (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

23 Incredible Benefits Of Getting More Sleep (Business Insider)

Sleep, Learning, and Memory (Healthy Sleep Harvard)

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