Getting your Zzzz’s is one of the most crucial parts of an effective well-being routine. There’s no way around it. If you want to be healthy and happy, you can’t do it without sleep. But with all the ups and downs of life, prioritizing restful sleep can be a challenge.
Beyond feeling rested, sleep has countless other benefits:
- Sleep is connected to body health and calorie intake – Poor sleep hygiene is strongly linked to our hormones that regulate appetite. When we don’t get enough sleep, our urges to eat increase – thus we are more likely to gain weight. Without adequate sleep it can be extremely difficult to achieve our health and physical fitness goals.
- Increase Focus – A healthy sleep routine improves increased concentration and productivity. Getting those Zzzz’s allows your brain to function at its best. Many studies indicate that sleep deprivation has similar effects on the brain’s ability to retain information as being drunk. One study even found that getting only six hours of sleep for five consecutive nights has the same impact on our mental function as pulling an all nighter. If you’ve ever done that, you know it’s not a pretty sight.
- Physical Health – Chronic poor sleep can undermine the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and prolonging recovery times from illness. It is also linked to a higher risk of serious health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, due to negative effects on metabolism and heart function. Additionally, inadequate sleep hygiene can impair growth and stress hormone regulation, which can lead to a range of issues including weight gain, decreased muscle mass, and reduced ability to manage stress.
- Mental Health – Poor nighttime sleep can lead to diminished cognitive functions, including impaired memory, concentration, and decision-making, which can exacerbate mental health challenges. Chronic insomnia is associated with an increased risk of developing disorders such as depression and anxiety, as it can disrupt the balance of key neurotransmitters in the brain. Furthermore, insufficient sleep can heighten emotional reactivity, reducing an individual’s ability to cope with stress and potentially contributing to strained relationships and poor mental well-being. In fact, 90 percent of people with depression state they experience sleep disorders.
- We all want to belong – Social connection and belonging are a core desire that is hardwired. Poor sleep quality is shown to reduce our social skills and the ability to recognize emotions in others. Not so surprising that you get into those silly arguments with your roommate, co-worker, or partner after a late night.
So how can we make better sleep a priority with so many conflicting priorities? There is a movement for “sleep hygiene,” a fancy way of saying good nocturnal sleep habits. Take incremental steps toward the following healthy habits for happier days and nights:
- Be consistent. Go to bed at generally the same time each night and get up at generally the same time each morning, including on the weekends. Yes, life is challenging, but a consistent sleep schedule goes a long way. To put this in context, think of a time when you have traveled between time zones. The first night in the new place, it’s a DRAG to get out of bed in the morning even if it’s only a two hour difference. Now think about your weekday to weekend wake up and bedtime routine – it’s likely much more than two hours – and you’re doing the equivalent of flying from Boston to California every week making it impossible for your cardiac rhythm to find its groove.
- Create a Bedtime Routine: Establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine such as taking a warm bath, reading, or practicing relaxation exercises to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.
- The environment matters. Make sure your sleep environment is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature (many folks are often too hot, 60-67 degrees is optimal for sleep). If you live with others or have less control over your surroundings, earplugs and a sleeping mask are a cheap way to cut out the sleep disturbances.
- Reduce distractions. Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and cell phones, from the bedroom. (Tempting as it is, you can never scroll your way to a good night’s sleep. It’s hard to let go, but effective.)
- Mindfully consume. Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol consumption before bedtime. Caffeine does not fully leave the system for over 10 hours – so think twice about that midafternoon jolt if you’re having trouble sleeping.
- Get regular exercise. Being physically active on a regular basis can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
Whether you’ve had sleep problems for a while, or you are going through a funk now, you can retrain yourself by introducing consistent sleep hygiene habits into your life.
*If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, request an appointment with one of our professional mental health providers at Diversus Health today. If you need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.