If you are anything like me, getting enough sleep can be a real struggle. We live in a very busy, fast-paced world, and this can have a very negative impact on ones sleep schedule and quality of sleep.
It’s a commonly known fact that individuals should get 8 hours of sleep per night. For some, this may be very reasonable, while for others, this almost seems impossible. Many parents wait until their children go to sleep before they even try to accomplish anything, which keeps them up late only to wake up early to keep up with their kids. Sometimes there are not even 8 hours between the time they lay down, to the time the children are awake.
For those that work odd hours, or numerous jobs, shifts can vary so much, leaving less than 8 hours between shifts. Other factors like insomnia, anxiety, or other sleep-related issues, can leave a person lying in bed awake for most, if not all, of the night. Many factors can play a role in one not getting enough sleep, but what we need to remember is that adequate sleep is essential for one’s overall health and wellbeing.
Here are seven simple things that you can do to improve your sleeping habits, and you might be surprised at how easy they are.
- Avoid Screen Time Before Bed- Too many of us pull our phones, tablets, or other electronic out when we lie down at night. It may be to scroll on social media, answer emails, or even to binge-watch your favorite TV show on Netflix. This does not only reduce the time that you could use for sleeping, but it may also induce anxiety or stress before falling asleep. Try this tonight, put down or turn off all electronics as soon as you lie down in bed. Focus on slowing your mind down and relaxing your body as you prepare to fall asleep.
- Meditation- Have you ever tried meditation? Meditation is known for calming one's mind and can also promote relaxation throughout the body. Doing this before bed can prepare your body for a more restful nights sleep. If you're new to meditation, many online resources provide guided sessions, or you may consider calming your mind through prayer.
- Avoid Late Night Snacks- When you eat, your body immediately starts the digestion process. If you wait until right before bed to eat dinner or you enjoy a late night snack, your body will start the digestion process which will prevent your body from being fully relaxed. Consider giving your body enough time to digest your meal before you lie down for bed.
- De-caffeinate- Avoid drinks or food with a high amount of caffeine and sugar near bedtime. Consuming caffeine before bed can keep you awake much longer or make it harder to fall asleep. It can also decrease the quality of your sleep as well. Consider setting a limit for yourself. For example, if you wish to go to sleep at 9 p.m., do not consume caffeine after 5 p.m.
- Set a Regular Bedtime- This may be very difficult if your schedule changes or you have children, but setting a scheduled bedtime can increase the amount of sleep you get over time and may also positively impact your quality of sleep. When it is possible to go to bed at your goal time, take advantage! Do not stay up doing things that are not necessary, get to bed on time.
- Aromatherapy or Relaxing Sounds- Many people find that aromatherapy is helpful to relax. A few drops of essential oils in a diffuser can help one rest easier and relax the mind. You may also consider turning on relaxing noises such as a rainstorm, or soothing instrumentals. Choose your sounds carefully. If you choose a sound that is distracting, you could impede your ability to fall asleep.
- Simplify Your To-Do List- We've all done it. We create a to-do list based on what we want to accomplish in one day versus what we can accomplish in one day. If we could check off every task on our list, we wouldn't have time to eat, sleep, or even blink! Consider taking a few items off of your to-do list so you can enjoy a few more hours of rest.
So how does sleep benefit us, anyway? While you sleep, your entire body has time to repair itself from the long day. While there are many benefits to sleep, below are just a few that I can name that should be enough to convince you that rest is crucial to your wellbeing.
- Increases immune system health
- Reduces stress, boosts mood, and increases mental well being
- Helps with weight loss
- Increases fertility
- Decreases chance of developing diabetes and heart disease
Sleep deprivation can have a lot of negative consequences, some even long term. Medical intervention may be necessary and should be utilized if it is needed. Do not hesitate to speak with your Physician about your sleeping habits. I hope that everyone has a restful night's sleep!
-Valerie Heroth, LPN