Do you remember rolling your eyes at your parents when they reminded you of your bedtime? It’s too early. I’m not tired. I don’t need that much sleep!
Sleep, something our bodies should do naturally often eludes us and is a common barrier to health and mental well-being for many.
Inadequate sleep and poor quality of sleep impact every aspect of our health. Research indicates people who sleep poorly have weakened immune systems, impaired heart health, increased risk of developing diabetes, accelerated aging process (visible in our skin), metabolic changes, decreased cognitive functioning (poor memory, difficulty with concentration, learning and problem solving), negative impact on mood (increased irritability, exacerbation of emotional disorders, depression, anxiety), and low libido.
Are we doomed?
Most of us have heard of sleep hygiene and sleep routines? While evening bedtime routines are important, setting ourselves up for a restful night begins long before we crawl into bed; here are a few healthy sleep habits to adopt during the day:
Stick to a sleep schedule: Reinforce your circadian rhythm to promote healthy sleep-wake cycles by going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day.
Create a healthy sleep environment: From the time we are teenagers, our bedrooms have served us as a place where we escape the stressors of the outside world, where we read, listen to music, do our homework, talk to friends and even watch television. Unfortunately, when our bedrooms become our hangout space, it’s primary purpose falls by the wayside. Your bedroom should be a relaxing space. Creating a cozy and uncluttered space, where sleep is the primary focus, may help your mind turn off more easily at night.
Move your body & Get Outdoors: As little as 30-minutes of moderate exercise and time outdoors a day will support your sleep goals, while also giving you a serotonin boost – which not only makes you feel happy, but also impacts our sleep cycles.
Thought Dump: Don’t take your worries and stressors to bed with you. Research indicates writing your worries down early in the day can help you fall asleep faster at bedtime – so grab a piece of paper and dump those thoughts!
Avoid Stimulants and, I know you don’t want to hear it – but limit alcohol: Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not help us sleep soundly. While alcohol may induce sleep, studies have shown the quality of sleep is often fragmented – as the alcohol’s seemingly relaxing effects wear off, having consumed alcohol earlier results in increased awakenings during the night. Caffeine: While many people feel they cannot get through their day without a cup (or 5) of coffee, caffeine intake should cease four to six hours prior to your planned bedtime (the longer the better…sorry!).
Ensuring you set yourself up for success during the day is just as important as your evening routine. Here are a few evening tips to support in achieving your sleep-time goals:
Go to bed when you’re tired: Early nights are alluring, but we cannot force sleep. Heading to bed before you are ready can lead to sleep anxiety and insomnia.
Sensory Deprivation: Block out the light and turn off the noise.
Switch-off: Develop an off-switch for your brain, and incorporate your off-time into your bed time ritual. Hyperarousal (active or “always on” mind) is one of the main reasons people with insomnia cannot sleep.
Bed is for Sleep & Intimacy: Your bed’s primary function should be as a place to sleep or partake in intimate activities – help solidify this association in your brain by limiting your bed to just these two activities.
Leave the Cell at the door: Do not take your phone, or other devices to bed with you. Blue light emitted from our electronics delays the release of melatonin, increases our alertness and turnsour internal sleep clock behind.
Sleep. Seemingly our white whale: elusive, but not uncapturable.
Savita Jaswal, RSW