The quality of your sleep and your sleep habits can impact your mood and your mental, emotional, and physical health, plus so much more. I can attest to that after having a baby!
There is a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a torture device by governments.
Sleep is as important as breathing to your ability to function. Yet through a thousand forms of avoidance, you may manage to rob yourself of this vital element of life, instead resorting to stimulants, trying to stretch the fabric of time to accommodate your need for greater and greater productivity and achievement.
Even going through the day with a few hours less sleep than is optimal can cause your mood to fluctuate, your metabolism to go haywire, and your concentration to wane. Racking up a sleep debt by chronically getting less rest than you need can cause performance problems at work, troubles in your relationships, memory issues, a greater risk of injury and accidents, weight fluctuation, and poor decision-making.
In terms of mental health, studies have linked sleeping poorly to depression, and as many as 90% of depression sufferers complain about their sleep habits. The bottom line is that before addressing mental disorders, it’s a good idea to find out whether simply sleeping properly improves your mood and outlook on life. It may be that you need treatment for your insomnia or sleep apnea, rather than for depression.
Sleeping poorly can damage your relationships with others, because it makes you irritated, frustrated, and annoyed when you’re tired all the time. You might lash out at others or have trouble focusing on a meaningful conversation, thinning the fabric of intimacy that binds you to your loved ones. When you’re chronically sleep-deprived, you may lose interest altogether in socializing, preferring to play games on your phone or browse the internet, or just do anything that requires minimal effort or interaction with others.
Lastly, getting a good night’s sleep is the best thing you can do to fortify your immune system against disease and illness. Proper sleep is non-negotiable in order for your immune responses to be robust and timely. If you find yourself getting colds or sore throats often, consider whether you are sleeping at least seven or eight hours a night.
Here are some things that you can do to develop better sleep habits:
1. Stick to a sleep schedule by setting aside at least seven to eight hours a night for rest and going to bed at the same time every night. The body will get into the habit of expecting to fall asleep at a certain hour, and this consistency will improve the quality of your rest.
2. Being mindful of what you eat and drink before bed can help eliminate certain sleeping problems, such as digestive pain keeping you up or caffeine-induced insomnia. Even though alcohol might make you drowsy initially, it can disturb your sleep later in the night.
3. Create the ideal sleeping environment by keeping your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark. Turn off screens and devices, draw the shades, and turn off anything that might make noise during the night. Put your phone on vibrate. Invest in a comfortable bed, pillow, blanket, and sheets that are soothing and make you feel relaxed.
4. Perform soothing rituals such as drinking a hot cup of chamomile tea or Poosh Moon Milk Collagen Latte, listening to classical music, taking a hot bath, or meditating.
5. Avoid napping during the day, as this can keep you from sleeping all the way through the night. Of course, if you are in a sleep deficit from the night before, then a nap may be necessary to catch up. Limit naps to 30 minutes.
6. Get enough exercise. This cannot be stated enough. The body needs to stretch its muscles and produce endorphins so that it can sleep properly in the nighttime. Exercising and sleeping well go hand in hand, so that is the first area to adjust if you are experiencing insomnia. Getting enough fresh air and sunlight each day also promotes restful sleep.
7. Dealing with emotional baggage from the day is important, as too many worries can easily keep you awake at night. A good exercise might be to write down all your worries in a notebook and set it aside, knowing you can come back to it in the morning. If you find you are consistently unable to wind down from the day due to uncontrollable emotions, it may be time to seek out therapy or work with a life coach.
To learn more about how to achieve better overall habits, go to rewiredprograms.com.
Erica Spiegelman is a wellness specialist, recovery counselor, and author of the new book The Rewired Life (2018) as well as Rewired: A Bold New Approach to Addiction & Recovery(2015), the Rewired Workbook (2017), the Rewired Coloring Book (2017), all published by Hatherleigh Press. Erica holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from the University of Arizona and is a California State Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor (CADAC)-II from UCLA. For more information, visit Erica’s website or follow @Erica Spiegelman on Instagram.
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