The fact that I’m writing this at 12:42 am on Saturday morning when I should be sleeping is probably one of the biggest indicators to why we need to talk about sleep. Over the course of one week I’ve had a lot of discussions on sleep and sleep hygiene. Many persons (including myself) are not having restful and refreshing sleep. This made me curious to know how to improve our sleep hygiene.
Earlier this week I made a twitter poll on how many times people wake up in the middle of the night, I think this is one poll of mine that has had the most votes, I was shook! Here are the results:
65% of persons wake up 1-3x per night after going to bed, and guess what? That’s actually completely normal! The real issue with waking up at night has to do with waking up and having difficulties going back to sleep. We sleep in cycles, and if you click on the link you’ll see where the doctor talks about this along with how as the night progresses we get closer to the line of awareness… which simple means it’s easier and easier to wake up as it gets closer to morning.
We won’t spend much time talking about the sleep cycle but I think its important to discuss sleep before we can figure out how to make it better. This article, which I hope you all will click and read, really sums up sleep well and the effects of not getting enough or restful sleep.
The reason we sleep and know when to sleep has to do with chemicals in our bodies and external stimuli. We have a biological clock which follows our 24 hour day cycle and regulates our sleep. Some of you may have heard about melatonin and cortisol. Both are hormones produced by the body and have different (opposite) effects on sleep. Melatonin is released as it gets darker and prepares us for sleep while cortisol is made as the sun rises and prepares us to be awake. So already, we know that light plays an important part in our sleep.
Sleep plays a vital part in all aspects of our lives. Sleep helps to keep us healthy and productive the next day. Lack of sleep can make us groggy, sluggish and perform sub optimally in the morning that follows. Not only does it affect our performance level, but it also affects our health! Sleep keeps our brains healthy. Sleep deficiency can put you at risk for cardiovascular diseases because your vessels are repaired during sleep, it can increase your risk of diabetes because glucose (sugar) is increased with lack of sleep. It can also affect your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off infections!
As we get older the amount of time we need to sleep changes. In general the younger you are the more sleep you need. The timing of sleep also differs, with young children sleeping more and earlier in the evening, teenagers sleeping later at night and in the day and adults going to bed earlier and waking earlier as well. Real interesting stuff!
Sleep hygiene is defined as the habits and practices we have that are conductive to sleeping well on a regular basis. Many of us have very poor sleep hygiene so below I have shared some ways to improve them. As usual, I always encourage you to read on your own! (Or watch a video)
- Keep your bedroom for sleeping and sex only avoid it being a space where you do stressful activities such as work
- Keep the bedroom dark and avoid sleeping with a nightlight
- Keep your phone away from you when leading up to bed time. Put. It. Away!
- Try to sync your sleep schedule with your sleeping partner
- Your sleep partner can also keep you up, does he or she snore? Are they always tossing and turning? Try figuring out solutions if you want to share a bed but don’t be afraid to consider sleeping separately.
In the Day:
- Restrict your caffeine intake to before 12 noon
- Avoid drinking alcohol before bed, it might make you sleepy but there is a rebound effect of alcohol later on
- Exercise earlier in the day, the rush of adrenaline can have you energised for the day but too energised for bed
- Stop smoking. Quitting smoking is good for so many reasons but it may also be why you’re not having a good nights sleep!
- Don’t over sleep
- If you’re going to nap, nap early
In the Night:
- Prepare for bed by having a relaxing technique, read a book, meditate, journal. Avoid watching shows that will get you worked up or exercising.
- Keep evening meals light
- Go to bed when you’re tired
Sleeping is something we do every single day, we do it so much you think we’d be good at it by now! If you’re like me, sleep is an issue you’re constantly dealing with. I encourage you to take the time to understand sleep and the art of sleeping so you can improve all aspects of your life.
Let me know if you try any of these techniques by commenting below.
Samantha C. Johnson
I actually did a sleep clinic which echoes much of the advice here. Hard to keep that up but with this week’s trials, I think I need to do better.
It definitely isn’t an easy thing! Just keep going!
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