Well, here we are. It’s January of 2018 and we just said, “goodbye” to 2017. I’m going to assume that Christmas is but a distant memory and you are enjoying the gifts that were opened (hopefully no returns). I’m also going to assume there just might be one gift that no one thought to give you and you probably didn’t think to ask for it either. However, who says that you can’t give it to yourself now? It’s not too late, in fact, it is the perfect time to give it to yourself to start the new year off right. Are you wondering what it could be? Well, here it is — a good nights sleep. Every night!
Who doesn’t want that? Because we live in such a high-paced society, the benefits of a good night’s rest can be easily overlooked. Many of us either do not make it a practice to get the sleep we need or we have a hard time obtaining the quantity and/or quality of sleep our bodies require. All too often we “borrow” time from our sleep thinking we can make it up later. Does that ever really work?
Americans are notoriously sleep deprived. Traditionally, sleep problems were once viewed as symptoms of a psychiatric disorder. But 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.
During the day, our brains take in a vast amount of information. And instead of that information being directly logged 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 took in during the day is transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory through a process called “consolidation.” Isn’t that amazing that our brains can do that while we are in slumber?
Getting a good nights sleep is as important to your health as eating, drinking and breathing. While you sleep, your brain repairs your body — physically and mentally. In the deepest stages of sleep, tissues grow and muscles relax and energy is restored. Sleep restores hormones, skin cells, liver functions, heart health and even more. So you see, sleeping is a lot more than just getting rest 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
change in appearance, red, puffy eyes, dark circles under eyes, sallow skin
So, what are your sleep habits? Are you consistently getting a good nights 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 or so, get out of bed and do something relaxing 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. Create 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, keep the room dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature, usually on the cool side is best. You might need to remove any electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, or smart phones as they can be a hindrance to you getting a good nights sleep.
3. Limit what you eat and drink before bedtime.
Eating a heavy or large meal within a couple of hours of bedtime can be disruptive to sleep. Once you eat, your metabolism fires up making it difficult to fall asleep as well as sleeping soundly. Coffees, sodas, teas and even chocolate contain caffeine that can take as much as eight hours to fully wear off, so that late afternoon cup of coffee could be interfering with falling asleep at night. Also, having an alcoholic beverage before sleep may help you relax, but more heavy consumption will rob you of deep sleep 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 on the calm side such as reading, taking a bath or using a relaxation technique to promote better sleep.
There are many other helpful tips that can help induce a good nights sleep such as not taking naps after 3pm, managing worries and concerns, and having a good mattress and pillow, etc., but the four I specifically pointed out are some biggies.
I can’t stress enough just how important a good nights sleep is to your physical and mental well-being. If your sleep regimen needs some tweaking and would like to explore what is standing in the way of getting that good nights sleep, please call me at (616) 516-1570 or as always, by clicking on the “contact” tab on the screen you can set up an appointment. While sleeping well is not a guarantee of good health, it does help to maintain many of your body’s vital functions. And there is ample evidence to show that getting the right kind and right amount of sleep each night not only makes you feel better, but also increases the odds of living a healthier, and more productive life.