Before we begin, why is sleep so important?
Sleep is a basic function in our lives and you may have noticed how easily it can affect you: if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you may find yourself to be more emotional, short-tempered, unable to focus on your daily tasks, or all of the above. If we never slept, we literally wouldn’t be able to function. It is a basic necessity for our body’s to relax and recuperate from the activities of the day. So what is it about sleep that makes it so important in our lives?
Good quality and quantity of sleep are associated with many positive health outcomes:
- Improve memory function
- Emotion regulation
- Regulation of metabolic functions and energy levels
- Aid in the synthesis of useful molecules of our body
- Help in eliminating toxic substances and metabolic waste in the body.
Since poor sleep can impair the body’s immunity response, by not getting enough sleep, we put ourselves at a higher risk. For example, in 2014 sleep was associated with 7 of the 15 leading causes of death in the United States, including chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes, as well as cancer, cerebrovascular disease and accidents.
Overall, sleep improves our quality of life. It can improve our physical and mental health because it leaves us with more energy to concentrate on the tasks that are important to us. This, in turn, also means that we are more engaged and cooperate better at school or work.
A few things that can negatively affect your sleep are:
- Lack of physical activity
- Poor diet
- Watching TV before bed
- Drinking alcohol before bed
Many of those factors are related to a lack of sleep hygiene.
But, what is sleep hygiene?
A good sleep hygiene means having an environment and a daily routine that helps promote consistent, uninterrupted, high quality sleep. Performing the same nightly activities will signal to your body that it’s time to rest and will allow you to fall asleep faster.
How can you do this? Well, let’s look into a few basic, simple things that can help you get started.
The U.S.-based National Sleep Foundation recommends the following for establishing a sleep routine:
- Go to bed at the same time each night
- Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m.
- Don’t drink alcohol within three hours of bedtime
- If needed, take a power nap of no longer than 20 minutes during the day
Further tips for establishing better sleep hygiene
Avoid using electronic devices before you go to sleep
Having devices such as your phone or a TV in the bedroom creates a highly stimulating, media-rich environment. The blue light from devices also affects our sleep. Our eyes are very sensitive to blue light. LED, which is rich in blue light, is what our phone screens emit. When we expose our eyes to LED light at night, it can disrupt our body’s melatonin secretion and subsequently, our overall sleep as well. It can cause you to go to sleep later than you should, resulting in less and poorer quality sleep. It is recommended that you turn off your electronic devices before bed and, if possible, try to leave them outside your bedroom.
Activate the power of aromatherapy
Aromatherapy can be a great help towards you achieving better quality sleep; and, even better, it’s inexpensive. Applying a few drops on your skin for the body to absorb or inhaling it can help improve mental and physical health by helping you relax, reducing stress and anxiety, and promoting better sleep. Lavender, cypress, and chamomile essential oils have been proven to be some of the best options for this.
Find your center with mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation has numerous health benefits, particularly for those suffering from sleep disturbances. Mindfulness meditation focuses on training your mind to pay attention to the present moment. It can help decrease negative thoughts and emotional reactivity, and promotes objective evaluations of your daily experiences, all of which can help you become more relaxed, facilitating more peaceful sleep.
Some technology solutions to help you establish a routine
Once you have a better understanding of your sleep and how you can establish a better bedtime routine, there are a few different kinds of apps and equipment out there that can help you in keeping up with your routine:
- White noise machine
- Meditation/mindfulness recordings
- Sleep trackers
- Habit trackers
Some things to remember:
- Everyone functions on different lengths of sleep. The general recommendation is to get 8 hours of sleep; for some people, however, 7 hours is enough, whereas others might need 9 hours. The important thing to remember is to keep an eye on what works best for you and adjust accordingly. If you find that 9 hours of sleep is too much and leaves you lethargic throughout the day, try sleeping 8 hours.
- Finding a sleep routine that works for you takes time, not everything works for everyone; sleep routines are never a one-size-fits-all.
- If you continue to struggle with your sleep for prolonged periods and find that it is interfering with your day-to-day life, it is wise to seek professional help. Some outlets that can help you get your sleep under control are meditation specialists and sleep therapists. These methods may minimize the need to rely on medication.
Overall, sleep is a crucial part of our life, so it’s important to establish a solid routine and adopt good habits that help achieve the best quality and quantity of sleep possible. And, with a little bit of practice, it’s possible to achieve that.