A full night’s sleep is a central component of healthy living. Not only does it give you a sense of rest and mental well-being, but it also gives your body a chance to replenish and rebuild its resources. In sleep, our bodies do much of the work involved with processing nutrition and keeping cells healthy. During periods of poor sleep, we fall behind in these areas, and this can negatively affect practically every aspect of life.
Polls by the National Sleep Foundation and other organizations show that people sleep less than they used to. Everyone feels well-rested and healthy after a solid eight hours of sleep, but too many people feel that sleep is expendable and that it is acceptable to sacrifice sleep in favor of other priorities. But the fact is that poor sleep over a long period of time affects metabolism, alters hormones, and speeds up aging, and it is linked to poor cognitive performance, poor immune responses, depression, blood sugar imbalances, and obesity. Even one night of poor sleep can impair your ability to perform everyday tasks.
The bottom line in all of this is that sleep should not be regarded as an expendable resource that can be freely tossed aside in favor of other things. It is just as important as a healthy diet and regular exercise, and you might be surprised by the physical and mental health boosts that you will get after just a few weeks of sleeping 7 to 9 hours every night.
Tips for getting the most out of sleep
The most important factor in ensuring that you can get sufficient, restful sleep is to give yourself time to unwind at the end of the day. If you are running around, exercising, or stressing out in the hours immediately before work, your mind is still going to be too active to shut down, so try to give yourself some unwinding time. In addition to that, here are a few other tips:
- Avoid the computer and television for 30 minutes leading up to bedtime. The glowing screen acts as a stimulant and makes it harder to relax.
- Make your bedroom a pleasant, relaxing, and clutter-free space. Get rid of any unnecessary clothes and furniture, and clear your room of any work-related materials before bed.
- Have a sleeping routine. If you can, try to go to bed at the same time every night, and this will inevitably lead to waking up at the same time. The body likes having this regular pattern, and you will soon feel it in the form of increased energy.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the hours leading to sleep.
- Make sure to wear yourself out during the day by getting plenty of physical activity, including both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
- Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable. If you do not currently have a mattress that you are happy with, consider a new one to be an important investment to save up for.
What to do about poor sleep
If you do all these things but still cannot seem to sleep well, then you may have a sleeping disorder, or else some other health issue may be interfering with your rest. Consider seeing your doctor if your efforts to sleep well do not bear fruit after two or three weeks. Your doctor may opt to give you a sleep medication such as Ambien, or you may be referred to a sleep specialist who can help get to the root of your problem.
By Lisa Pecos