Is Sleep a Big Deal?
Sleep is an incredibly important factor for both physical and mental well-being, yet many of us don’t appreciate it’s true significance to our health.
Sleep has both direct and indirect impact on our mood, stress tolerance, and ability to think clearly and efficiently.
Nevertheless, we live in a time period and culture when sleep is often sacrificed in the spirit of increasing productivity and even leisure. Historically, the advent of electric lighting shifted the way societies functioned, as we were no longer dependent on sunlight to help us work or live. Furthermore, the introduction of cell phones, tablets, computers, and TV’s have continued to allow us to work and play late into evening hours, ultimately limiting opportunities for restful (and necessary) sleep.
Though our cultural habits and norms have shifted, our physiological need for healthy sleep has not.
Many medical professionals recommend getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night. For those who struggle to sleep, there are a number of factors and habits that might be contributing to this problem. Some simple changes could make a world of difference for improving sleep quality and quantity. Or you might need additional support from your doctor or a therapist at The Catalyst Center to bring your sleep-wake cycles into a healthy balance if your struggles caused by an underlying medical or mental health condition.
Unhealthy Habits That Could Disrupt Sleep:
- Napping during the day (multiple naps, or those lasting longer than 20-30 minutes can negatively impact nighttime sleep)
- Watching television, working, or using electronic devices in bed (your bed should be for sleep and sex only!)
- Using an electronic device (e.g. smartphone, laptop, etc.) with a bright screen within one hour of your desired bedtime
- Consuming caffeine, especially in the mid to late afternoon or evening (tea, coffee, most sodas, energy drinks, chocolate snacks or beverages)
- Consuming alcohol or marijuana (substances might help you nod off, but your sleep won’t be nearly as restful)
- Eating a heavy meal less than 3 hours before bedtime (small light snacks are a better alternative, and nothing with sugar or caffeine)
- Staying in bed when you can’t fall asleep (if you have been trying to sleep unsuccessfully for 20 minutes of more, get up and do something relaxing without bright lights or screens, then try again later)
Many of us are likely engaging in at least one of these unhealthy practices, but might not realize just how much this could limit sleep. Eliminating as many of these habits as possible could be quite beneficial. However, there are additional practices that can help promote healthy sleep.
Healthy Habits to Promote Restful Sleep:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (even on weekends). Your body will take time to adjust to new sleep habits so stay patient and consistent for several weeks to allow your body clock to recalibrate
- Exercise at least 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes, (it is best not to exercise in the 3-4 hours before bedtime)
- Setting aside some ‘worry time’ each day to write down any issues that are bothering or concerning you, then consciously deciding to leave those worries behind until tomorrow (best done at least one hour before bedtime)
- Relaxation exercises in the hour before bedtime (e.g. meditation, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation)
- Ensure the bedroom is completely dark and don’t sleep with a TV on (consider blackout curtains if needed)
- Keep the room quiet and free from distracting sounds (limit music, radio, or audiobooks in favor of a white noise machine or fan)
- Make sure the pillows and mattress are comfortable and your bed is somewhere you really want to sleep
- Keep your bedroom at the optimal temperature (we sleep best when the room is a bit cool and we have warm blankets to snuggle up in)
Following these recommendations give you a healthy foundation for sleep, ultimately giving you the benefits of increased energy, clearer thinking, better stress tolerance, fewer illnesses such as the common cold, and improved mood.
If you continue to struggle with sleep after trying these suggestions, reach out for support at The Catalyst Center or consider a visit to your doctor to help discover your right path to a better night’s sleep.
Wishing you Sweet Dreams!
~The Catalyst Center