Getting Better Sleep
March, for those countries that participate in Daylight Savings Time, means Springing Forward and losing that extra hour of sleep. The reality is, we sacrifice sleep throughout the year—not just that fateful day in March.
Many of us think of sleep as a luxury or indulgence—something that we give to ourselves sparingly or even as a reward. But sleep is a vital, often neglected, component of every person's overall health and well-being. It’s important because it enables the body to repair and be fit and ready for another day. What’s important to remember is that sleep affects your health and mental wellness just as much as exercise, diet, etc. It affects learning, memory, mood, and even insight.
Are you cheating yourself out of a full 8-hours of sleep? Here are some of the benefits you’re missing:
There’s ample research on the correlation between sleep and memory. In fact, most scientists think that sleep embeds the things we’ve learned or experienced over the course of our day into our memories.
Learned something new? Want to store away that wonderful moment from your day forever? Sleep will help you retain that information.
Lack of sleep results in a lack of focus, impairing you to remember just where you placed your house keys. With so much of our mood associated with being able to get through the day without added stress, sleeping might help mitigate the stress and increase your mood.
Just like with memory, a sluggish mind means lack of focus, and a significant drop in productivity and comprehension. In youth, a lack of sleep often can result in hyperactivity or even the ability to focus in school.
3. Combatting Disease
One of the most recent breakthroughs in neuroscience is the realization that sleep actually keep our brains healthy. Amyloid plaque is the sticky buildup that accumulates on the outside of nerve cells, creating beta amyloid, which is toxic to our brains and now thought to be the cause of numerous brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
So, how does our body rid our brain of such damaging plaque? Sleep.
4. Psychiatric Disorder Deterrent
There’s an undeniable relationship between sleep and those who suffer from psychiatric disorders: they often don’t sleep. However, by ensuring 8 hours of sleep a night, things such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and even ADHD often see an improvement of symptoms.
The verdict is in. If you’re not getting 8 hours of sleep, you’re not just missing out on benefits; you’re potentially setting your brain up for failure.
Some best practices tips for healthy sleep habits:
- Create a regular routine. This means a bedtime and wake-up time that you commit to.
- No screens an hour before bedtime. That means no phone, iPad, computer or laptop, or TV. The blue light given off by our technological devices stimulates our bodies into thinking it’s still light outside and not time for bed.
- Consider taking Melatonin, a naturally occurring substance in your body that helps signal when it’s time to sleep. Unlike prescription sleep medications, melatonin is all-natural and non-addictive.
- If you are having trouble getting to sleep, trying getting up and do something calm and relaxing until you feel tired again.
- Workout. If your body is tired, your mind will follow suit. Exercise not only improves your physical self but also your mental one. Breathing exercises and stretching before bed also helps to engage your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system) to help calm yourself.
- Meditate before bed. Finding your inner zen can help slow breathing and clear the mind, letting you fall into sleep easier than without it.
While these tips are helpful for people who are experiencing minimal sleep challenges, sleep issues can be an indication that something else is going on. In this case, it may be helpful to talk to someone. Sleep is an important part of your overall well-being, so make sure to give it the priority it deserves.