Why you Need Sleep & 4 Reasons Why you Aren’t Getting It
Every so often we are asked what the most important habit of a healthy wellness routine is. I’d like to tell you that to be truly “well” encompasses many factors that cannot be whittled down to one key ingredient. And I’d like to tell you that the intensity and importance of each factor will differ from person to person. But for the sake of setting small, attainable goals and building on them for a long-term wellness strategy, I would tell you that if you can start focusing on just one thing to change to become better at it’s this: Go to sleep.
I won’t pretend that suggesting everyone get 8-9 hours of sleep each night is groundbreaking advice and I also won’t pretend that getting 8-9 hours of good sleep each night is easy. In fact for many of us, getting a good night sleep may be the hardest thing we do in a day. So what’s keeping us awake at night? Let’s take a look at 4 of the most common bad habits keeping us from getting good sleep.
The Blue Light Special
A reported 80% of smartphone users check their phones before bed. And if we’re being honest, “check their phones” really means they scroll Facebook, watch some YouTube videos, or search for yet another deal on Amazon. Smart phones and other devices emit a blue light that keeps the brain from producing melatonin, a neurotransmitter that sends sleep messages to the brain.
We suggest keeping smart devices out of the bedroom, and ultimately to not use your device for two hours before bed time.
If you are a parent, you understand the importance of keeping a child on a consistent schedule. If a two year old misses just one naptime, your house is going to be turned upside down for three days as a result. Keeping a child on a steady sleep schedule is the difference between a happy home and a cranky home. Here’s the thing that as our children grow we forget: the importance of a sleep schedule never really goes away.
It’s true that as we age we need less sleep, but keeping a schedule for when you go to bed and when you wake up is always critical for a healthy sleep life.
It is understandable that at certain stages of life, such as being a parent of an infant, can mess with your sleep schedule. But that stage is exactly that – a stage. It is only temporary. However, if you hold a job with rotating shifts, things can become more difficult. This is when it is even more important that you plan ahead. Create a bedtime routine that relaxes you, get plenty of exercise, and make sure you have a healthy diet.
Creating a sleep schedule or sleep routine can and will be difficult for your body at first. Especially if you typically have a difficult time falling or staying asleep. But with practice and patience, your body will adjust to its new routine.
No, not in the bed. Just in general. An exercise routine that occurs at least 4 hours prior to your SCHEDULED bedtime will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Most of us have probably heard that exercise is great way to fight symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety – all things that are commonly blamed for an individual’s inability to fall or stay asleep.
Exercise also helps to reduce daytime sleepiness that is often triggered by obesity, diabetes and/or depression. If your body and brain are more alert and energetic during the day, then you will likely be more ready and eager to fall asleep at night.
Take It Outside
If you are currently and routinely doing anything in your bedroom other than sleeping, stop and take it outside the bedroom. Your bedroom should not be a place where you answer emails, pay bills, binge Netflix or eat a pastrami sandwich.
We often find that individuals who report difficulty falling asleep have established bad habits in their bed that create negative correlations. For example, if you often lug your laptop into bed to answer emails or take conference calls remotely, whether you are aware of it or not, you are creating a link in your brain that the bed = work stress. Same goes for paying bills and watching Netflix. Your bed and your bedroom should be a sleep sanctuary, not the place where you watch reruns of Criminal Minds 10 minutes before trying to fall asleep.
These are just 4 of the bad habits that may be keeping you from a healthy sleep routine. There are MANY more. If you are having difficulty getting 8-9 consistent hours of sleep, we strongly urge you to consult your physician. You don’t want to miss out on the amazing benefits of a good night sleep.
So, to recap… why is sleep so important?
Improves Concentration and Productivity
Fights Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
Maximizes Athletic Performance
Boosts Your Immune System
Helps to Stabilize Blood Sugars
Promotes Positive Social Interactions with Others
Shown to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
Reduces Inflammation caused by IBD and Crohn’s Disease
Provides Opportunity for Your Brain and Body to Replenish Itself
So yeah. If we had to pick one thing to focus on to improve overall wellness, it would be to just go to sleep.