Sleep. We could all use a little more of it. According to the CDC, more than 1/3 of Americans are sleep-deprived or suffer from self-imposed sleep deprivation. As a nation, we are not getting enough sleep. This, coupled with the stress of the pandemic, has further disrupted our sleep patterns. A report from the National Institutes of Health highlighted a study early in the pandemic that “revealed very high rates of clinically significant insomnia”, along with more acute stress, anxiety and depression.
If left unchecked, this can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, which can cause a myriad of illnesses and conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to increased stress hormones in the body, obesity, depression, and impairment in immunity.
Why are we sleep deprived?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, healthy sleep for an adult is between 7.5 to 8.5 hours a night. Many adults are getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night. Factors including stress, changes in lifestyle, technology use, and unregulated sleep environments can all contribute to why we aren’t getting the rest we need.
Sleep is a valuable part of everyday health. Our bodies and brains need sleep to develop and function properly. Though many would believe sleep is when our brains and bodies rest, our bodies are actually hard at work restoring energy, repairing cells, and releasing essential hormones. Sleep serves as the ultimate time to heal and recover so we can take on the next day feeling rejuvenated and sharp. The benefits of a good nights rest can include:
- Improve concentration
- Sharpen memory planning skills
- Helps maintain health and weight
- Improve mood
- Improve sex
- Decreased risk of accidents
- Decreased risk of developing: Major depression, Diabetes, Cardiovascular illnesses, Cancer, Alzheimer’s
Tips to help you sleep better
Getting your best sleep is important but making it a priority can be a challenge. Follow these tips below to help you towards achieving a sufficient nights rest.
1. Make sleep an important part of your wellness routine.
Getting exercise and maintaining a healthy diet are often the parts we focus on when developing a wellness routine. Sleep should be included as an important piece of this puzzle to maintain overall health. When we prioritize sleep as much as we do exercise and eating well, we can start to experience a more holistic approach to our wellbeing.
2. Prepare a bedtime ritual
Set a time to start preparing for bed, then create a ritual that will allow your mind and body to relax into proper sleep. Activities such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditation can be done before bedtime to unwind from the day and ease you in to sleep. By making these activities part of your bedtime ritual, you can train yourself to associate these activities with sleep. This association will help you to move more easily into slumber.
3. Be consistent
Wake up at the same time every day, including weekends or days off. Waking at the same time every day will actually help you to sleep better at night. A fixed wake time helps to build a strong desire for sleep throughout wakefulness. This sleep drive gradually builds, and shortening it by sleeping in will make it harder to fall asleep the next night. Sleeping in on the weekend makes it much more difficult to wake up earlier on Monday morning.
4. Put away the smart phones and tablets, reduce lighting in your space
Electronic devices and the bright lights from our environments all work to stimulate the brain and keep us active. Dim the lights and put away the devices at least one hour before bed. This practice can be done as a part of your bedtime ritual to prepare the mind and body for sleep.
Other Sleep Resources:
Want to learn more about how sleep affects us? Watch the Whole U Speaker Series with Dr. Michael Vitiello, professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine, and Biobehavioral Nursing and take strides towards getting better sleep today.
Project Sleep, who has their annual “Sleep In” marathon in March. (https://project-sleep.com/sleepin/). The idea is that many people with sleep disorders are too sleepy to run a marathon, so we pledge to stay in bed for a few days and participate in fun awareness-building activities.