Are you tossing and turning or waking up groggy? Our sleep profoundly affects our ability to manage stress, stay healthy, and feel productive. This January, resolving to sleep better might be at the heart of your other resolutions; exercise, healthy eating, and less drinking are all ways to sleep better! This blog will outline the symptoms of poor sleep habits and look at ways to improve your snooze and support your goals for the new year.
Poor sleep can affect your whole body.
Sleeping is our body’s way of refreshing itself after a long day. During our sleep cycles, our brains are active and working on cataloguing information and forming memories, repairing cells, restoring energy, and reinforcing our immune system. If we aren’t getting enough sleep, these systems cannot cycle. This can make us irritable, foggy, prone to depression and anxiety, and can increase our risk of developing serious health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Chronic lack of sleep can seriously impact our overall health and well-being. It can take our body up to five days to recover from missing just one or two hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation, also referred to as sleep debt, can make it more dangerous for us to drive or operate equipment, make it more difficult to focus and learn, and can have long-term side effects if it becomes a chronic issue. Learning how much sleep you need and building a healthy sleep schedule is a necessary part of a healthy mind and body.
Getting enough sleep is essential for your health.
Good sleep hygiene will help us feel refreshed when we wake up and keep our brains focused and curious during our day. In addition, positive sleep hygiene contributes to cell repair, healthy weight management, reduced stress, improved mood, maintains healthy immune function, and significantly reduces your risk for serious illness.
The right amount of sleep can vary from person to person, but most experts agree on these guidelines:
- Babies – toddlers require between 16-18 hours of sleep per day
- Toddlers – younger children require between 10-12 hours of sleep per day
- Teens require about 10 hours of sleep per day
- Young adults to seniors require between 7-9 hours of sleep per day
Your personal sleep duration needs will be determined by your genetics, but we all tend to fall within this spectrum. Your circadian rhythm, which responds to light and dark, also plays a significant role in your sleep routines. You can set yourself up for a better sleep by getting at least 15 minutes of outdoor morning sun exposure when you wake up and reducing the amount of light and screen time closer to your bedtime. Understanding how these two factors influence your sleep will help you identify poor habits and work to get a better snooze.
Pay attention to your sleep habits.
Listening to your body can help you identify the natural patterns that occur throughout the day, from peak wakefulness to biological night. Your body is a system that keeps you healthy and productive while promoting longevity.
Note when you start to feel sleepy, this can help you identify the best time to start your bedtime routine. When you are starting to feel evening drowsiness, that is your body producing Adenosine and Melatonin so that you are ready for a restful sleep. When you wake up earlier than you should (especially if it’s because you opted to stay up late), your body isn’t able to clear all the Adenosine from your body, which leaves you feeling drowsy and tired for your day. While we can recover from sleep deprivation, it takes more than a long nap. When we deviate from our body’s schedule, it can take up to 2 weeks to fully recover –– this is why following a healthy sleep routine is so important.
A sleep journal is a beneficial tool for your sleep hygiene. Documenting your habits can help you understand how your body’s natural habits and your lifestyle work together toward a good night’s rest. In addition to documenting when you start your bedtime routine and when you wake up, you can also record how you feel when you wake up and report on the quality of your sleep. These observations will help you identify areas where you can improve your sleep quality.
Build better sleep habits to support your goals!
Luckily, there are small things you can do to improve your sleep and maintain wellness. Additionally, better quality sleep will support your resolutions by giving you more energy and improving your mood.
You can start having better quality sleep by adopting these habits:
- Develop a routine for waking up and going to sleep that you maintain –– even on the weekends.
- Reduce your caffeine intake and avoid caffeine after noon.
- Nicotine affects your sleep; try to reduce your smoking towards quitting.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption and drinking before bed.
- Put your devices away about an hour or two before bed; opt for analog entertainment like reading.
- Try to stop eating 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
- If you nap, keep it short and avoid napping in the evening.
- Keep your bedroom cool; a temperature around 18℃ is perfect for a restful sleep.
- Take the tv out of your bedroom to avoid distractions.
- Add intentional sunlight exposure to the beginning of your day to take advantage of your body’s natural cycles.
- Talk to your doctor if you experience a chronic lack of sleep, as you may have a sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea which can affect your health and wellness.
Small changes lead to great sleep hygiene.
By incorporating small changes into your routine, you can allow your body to get the rest and recovery time it needs to support your busy life. If you are trying to change your lifestyle this New Year, good sleep hygiene is the foundation you need to support your goals –– many of the changes we want to make are driven by a healthy relationship to our body’s natural rhythms. Hit the hay with confidence by building healthy habits around bedtime.