We’re always hearing that sleep is important. Sure, sleep is important and it feels terrible to be sleep deprived, but that’s why coffee was invented, right? While coffee is wonderful in moderation, it cannot compensate for the deleterious effects of insufficient sleep, which go way beyond just feeling tired. Did you know that insufficient sleep is a risk factor for depression, poor memory, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke?
Not only does insufficient sleep put you at risk for the conditions mentioned above, getting enough sleep is vital to the function of our nervous systems. That’s why we feel drowsy and lack focus the day after a restless night. Studies indicate that deep sleep promotes cellular production and reduces protein breakdown, which enhances cell growth and repair, important after cell damage due to everyday stress and ultraviolet rays (beauty sleep is not a myth!). Looking for new immune boosters to help dodge the flu this season? Sleep can enhance our immune systems by conserving energy and resources needed to mount an immune response.
It’s one thing to preach about the importance of getting sleep, but it’s quite another to actually get enough sleep. Many people suffer from insomnia, difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep. Before reaching for that sleeping pill, try improving your sleep hygiene with the guidelines mentioned below. As always, medicine is not one-size-fits-all, and if you continue having difficulty sleeping or if you always feel tired throughout the day, see your doctor to determine and treat the cause of insomnia.
- Create quiet. Spend about thirty minutes quietly winding down before bed. Do not use the computer or TV during this time. Find another room for your pet to sleep. Do not drink caffeine after noon, as it can stay active in the body for up to eight hours. Do not have a television in the bedroom, and leave your computer in another room. This allows a strong association with the bedroom as a place to rest and sleep.
- Stay cool. Create a quiet, dark, cool bedroom; temperatures ranging from 65 to 72˚F are best. Make sure your bed is comfortable and your room is clean.
- Maintain routine. Keep a regular routine and regular time of meals, exercise, and primary activity. Regular exercise (thirty to forty minutes of aerobic exercise four times per week) improves subjective sleep quality and decreases daytime sleepiness. Avoiding loneliness through social connection decreases sleep disturbances and restlessness.