Waking Up on the Right Side of the Bed
When thinking about sleep, it’s easy to imagine your brain simply shuts off for 8 hours and then reboots to your alarm in the morning. But sleep is not just one solid state of unconsciousness. Sleep is broken up into 5 stages, each one lasting for 5 to 15 minutes each. Each stage is pivotal for both biological and psychological health. When we get sleep deprived or have disruptions in our sleep, our body is unable to cycle through all those stages and we suffer because of it. When we let our bodies rest and heal in the ways they need to, we benefit both physically and mentally.
Seven to nine hours of sleep. Drill it into your brain. Seven to nine. When people get that amount of sleep they reap the benefits. Good sleep lowers the risk of heart disease by helping to keep your blood pressure down. It helps your body heal and regenerate. It boosts your immune system through the production and release of cytokines. Especially now, as we worry about covid-19, the flu season approaches, and as our world is dipped in bleach and hand sanitizer, we need to help our immune system as much as we can.
However, it’s not only our bodies, but our minds that need a good night’s rest too. Sleep can help prevent Alzheimers and dementia by allowing our brain to clear out the metabolic waste that we create during the day through neural activity. A full night’s sleep can increase productivity and concentration. If you are occasionally skipping a few hours of sleep in favor of getting some more work done you may be doing yourself a disfavor by reducing your overall productivity for the next day through sleep deprivation. Along with productivity, sleep is pivotal for our mental health. Our sleep patterns and our mental health have a bidirectional relationship. Poor sleep can come as a result of a preexisting mental health disorder and poor sleep generally increases the symptoms of mental health disorders. Consistent, stable sleep schedules can help with a whole slew of mental health disorders from depression to anxiety to ADHD. If you don’t have a mental health disorder, sleep still helps to regulate mood and gives you enough energy to face the day head on.
Getting good sleep is not always easy, especially if you have poor sleeping habits to begin with. Set yourself up for success by assessing the environment you sleep in. Is there a lot of extra light or sound in your room when you sleep? Do you look at your bed and immediately want to jump in or does your back wince because of a bad mattress? Is it too hot? Create an environment that you want to spend 8 hours in. Next, come up with some markers that you check every day.
- Find ways to be exposed to natural light throughout the day to help your circadian rhythm
- Be active during the day, but not too close to when you go to sleep
- No alcohol or caffeine in the hours leading up to bed
- Put away screens at least an hour before you go to sleep
Finally, consistency is key. Get on a sleep schedule that you can maintain throughout the week. This will make it far easier to get to bed every night as your body develops new habits and you will benefit from all the long-term benefits of good sleep. Sleep is a foundational part of our health. If we want to continue to live long, healthy lives, getting good shut eye is a great place to start.
Fletcher, Jenna. “Why Is Sleep Important? 9 Reasons for Getting a Good Night's Rest.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 31 May 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325353.
The National Sleep Foundation. “Boost Your Health with Better Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 28 July 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity.
Mercola, Joseph. “The Truth About Sleep.” Mercola.com, 21 Mar. 2020, articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2020/03/21/the-truth-about-sleep.aspx.
Suni, Eric. “Mental Health and Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 18 Sept. 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health.
Photo: Charles Deluvio via Unsplash