It seems like common sense that healthy sleep equals healthy and happy people, unfortunately the majority of our society are not getting healthy sleep. There are more reasons than I could possibly count as to why this is a problem. Life has gotten faster and busier, and sleep just no longer seems like a priority. The constant rushing can increase anxiety and makes it difficult to slow down and relax enough to fall asleep, especially into the deep sleep that the body needs. People rely on fancy coffee and energy drinks to get through their day and it might work temporarily. The problem is, sleep has so many health benefits that these options cannot offer. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep a night and yet the average adult gets less than five. So why is this a problem and how do we fix it?
What is Healthy Sleep?
Healthy sleep refers to more than just the hours in bed or sleeping. It refers to both the quantity and the quality of sleep. Healthy sleep involves a proper balance of REM and non-REM sleep. Good signs that you are getting healthy sleep are: if you are able to fall asleep easily within about 15 minutes of lying down, you regularly sleep between seven and nine hours, sleep is continuous without long periods of wakefulness, waking up feeling refreshed, waking up without difficulty, and feeling alert and productive throughout the day.
Why is Healthy Sleep Important?
Not getting enough quality sleep can contribute to a number of health concerns. On a basic level sleep allows your body and mind to recover from the day. It allows for faster healing, hair growth, skin rejuvenation, improved mental clarity, regulates hormones, and so much more. The right amount and quality of sleep directly effects cognitive ability. Not getting healthy sleep can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, stroke, diminished cognitive functioning, decreased emotional regulation, and difficulties maintaining healthy relationships.
Tips to Improve Sleep:
Make sleep a priority: while it does not always feel possible to put aside it must be made a priority. It takes effort, but it is possible. Set a definitive time to turn off everything else and start your night time routine. While there will always be exceptions, set a daily time and stick to it. This will allow you to practice and achieve improved time management, resulting in improved completion of responsibilities during the day and making sleep a priority at night.
Create an optimal sleep environment: remove excess stimulus from the bedroom such as electronics, make sure you bed is comfortable, use the bed strictly for sleep and intimacy, keep the temperature comfortable, put the phone down and don’t bring it into the bedroom, decorate with soothing colors, keep sleeping area clean.
Wake up at the same time every day: this allows for your body to develop a pattern and reduces likelihood for insomnia. When your body develops a routine that meets it’s needs it will naturally fall asleep and wake up, as well as sleep more soundly during those times.
Avoid naps: sleeping during the day reduces the need for sleep at night and interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythm reducing ease and quality of sleep.
Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption: both stimulate hormones and brain activity reducing the quality of sleep.
Check for medical issues: medical concerns such as sleep apnea, thyroid issues, or diabetes can negatively impact sleep quality. Seeing a physician to rule them out or treat them can help and improve sleep.
Eat a well balanced diet: the healthier you are the healthier your sleep will be and vise versa, the healthier your sleep the healthier you will be.
Control and address stress: managing mental health is vital to slowing our brain and body down and allowing it to fully invest in sleep.
Don’t wait until it is too late to make changes: don’t wait until a more severe condition such as insomnia develops to create healthy sleep habits. The worse it is the harder it is to fix. Start making the changes now to get healthy sleep and improve your health and hopefully you will never know you needed to.