Sleep is one of the most important factors in physical and mental health. Unfortunately, most people do not take the time and effort to allow their body and brain the time needed to rejuvenate and energize. In most cases, this can be easily corrected by prioritizing a good night’s sleep.
While it is commonly thought that everyone needs eight hours of sleep, there is actually much more variation. Adults tend to require some amount of sleep between seven and nine hours, and finding the optimal amount for each person is helpful when developing a healthy sleep routine.
Sleep Deprivation is Real
Failing to get enough sleep creates what is known as a sleep debt. This can be offset or balanced by sleeping a bit longer the next night. However, if the debt continually grows and is not offset in a day or two, the body and brain go into a sleep deprivation mode.
People experiencing chronic sleep deprivation can have many different symptoms. Common issues linked to a lack of sleep including mood and emotional disorders, high blood pressure, diabetes, decreased mental abilities (problem solving, memory, concentration) as well as an increased risk of obesity and sleep disorder problems. Finally, individuals with sleep deprivation experience higher safety-related injuries, both at work as well as in the home.
Getting into a Sleep Routine
Developing a routine to go to sleep is an effective way to signal your brain and your body it is time to doze off. This routine or ritual helps to pre-set relaxation and have your body primed to let go and close your eyes.
To help get started, here are some basics:
- Have a set sleep and wake time
- Make your bedroom comfortable and welcoming
- Reduce light and noise in the bedroom
- Keep the bedroom temperature cool
- Take a break from watching a screen (computer or tv) at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Consider calming music, listen to a guided meditation or a relaxation exercise
- Try having a hot bath, reading a good book, or enjoying some calming music before bed.
There are also some things to avoid:
- Avoid caffeine or alcohol before going to bed
- Avoid watching TV in the bedroom
- Do not read in bed and reserve the bed for sleeping
- Avoid intensive or prolonged exercise for several hours before bed
- Limit mentally stimulating activities before bed
- Consider meditation or mindfulness exercises to relieve stress and anxiety before getting into bed
Staying up late and getting work completed may be a necessity of life, but it should be a rare occurrence. The more routine and regular your sleep, the more productive you will be when you are awake. Higher productivity in the day results in less need to work into the night, creating a positive, healthy change in your life.