How important is it to get a good night of sleep?
Quality sleep is vital to improving your health, healing, and happiness.
The quality of your sleep impacts every aspect of life, including health, physical performance, cognitive ability, and mood?
A lack of restful sleep can lead to poor health by slowing your body’s ability to repair and regenerate, decreasing the release of growth hormone, aging your skin, and lowering sex drive. There are even studies showing a link between lack of sleep and weight gain.
If you’ve been through college, started a business, or have a young child, you know what it feels like to get by on a lack of sleep. I have done all 3 and can confirm that lack of sleep or poor quality sleep will lead to decreased performance in all areas of life, including health.
There’s no amount of coffee or energy drinks that can make up for poor sleep.
If you wake up each morning feeling tired and groggy, then you’re probably not getting high quality sleep. Another issue could be difficulty falling asleep, which will keep you up later and cause you to have less hours of sleep each night.
Before we get into tips and tricks for better sleep, the first thing to do is make sleep a priority. It takes maturity and self-awareness to understand the importance of sleep and then take action to make it happen.
Instead of viewing sleep as something that just happens, look at it as an essential component to healthy living. Improving the quality of your sleep is like taking the time to lay a strong foundation for success in all that you do.
MAKE SURE TO SCHEDULE 7-9 HOURS OF SLEEP EACH NIGHT
You may be thinking to yourself, I do fine on 6 hours of sleep, but studies of mental alertness and performance have shown that this is not true.
“Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication.”- Williamson & Feyer
The easiest way to make sure you get enough sleep is to schedule a sleep time. We are all familiar with setting an alarm to wake us in the morning. I am asking you to give yourself a sleep time, to ensure you get the best quality and quantity of sleep.
If you need to be up at 7:00 am, then count back 8 hours and set your sleep time for 11:00 pm. This doesn’t mean that you get ready for bed at 11:00 pm. You should have your entire night time routine done, lights out, and falling asleep by 11:00 pm. This isn’t easy to do and you may encounter some emotional resistance to being an adult and having a bedtime.
Remind yourself of the importance of your day and that quality sleep will help you attain a healthy and successful life.
SHUT OFF ELECTRONIC DEVICES 2 HOURS BEFORE BED
If you spend time at night on your phone, computer or fall asleep watching television, it can interfere with your body’s normal production of hormones.
Electronic devices including the television, smartphone, iPad, and computers, emit blue light that interferes with your body’s normal hormone production. The blue light from electronic devices tricks your body into producing more daytime hormones and interferes with the release of the nighttime hormone, melatonin. A decrease in melatonin production has been shown to make you feel less sleepy at night and feel tired the next day.
To improve your quality of sleep, reduce your exposure to blue light at night. Start by shutting down all electronic devices a minimum of 1 hour before bed. Plan a night time activity so you have something to do other than looking at your phone or television. You can try reading a book, stretching, having a conversation…
If you need to be on the computer in the evening, try using a blue light reducer/blocker. For years I have been using justgetflux.com, it’s a free download for your computer and it will reduce the blue light exposure from your computer.
iPhones have a Night Shift setting – turn that on to reduce the amount of blue light you get while using your phone.
Try blue light blocking sunglasses. I have these, but have a hard time wearing sunglasses in the house. This option doesn’t work for me, but I have several patients who have had great success with these.
Cutting yourself off from the TV or computer/phone at night can be even more difficult than setting a sleep time, but it will be a huge help in improving the quality of your sleep.
STOP OR REDUCE ALL CAFFEINE CONSUMPTION
Coffee and caffeine products can lead to a vicious cycle. If you go to sleep with caffeine in your system it can reduce your quality of sleep. Over time this will make you feel more tired during the day which will lead you to drink more coffee.
It takes an average of 5 hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off, but it could take longer. Plus, the caffeine is still in your system and still affects your body, even if you no longer feel the caffeine buzz.
If you drink caffeine it’s best to stop drinking early in the afternoon, 2:00 pm or earlier. This will give the caffeine time to wear off and give your body time to remove most of it from your system.
GET MORE SUNLIGHT
Your circadian rhythm is like an internal clock running all day affecting your sleep and wake cycles. Your body releases certain hormones at specific times of the day which control the various systems of your body (digestion, immune, cardiovascular…)
Getting enough light at the right time of day will ensure your circadian rhythm is functioning properly. If you spend most of your hours indoors with artificial light, this could be throwing off your rhythm.
Spend 15 – 30 minutes outside each day. If you have a dog go for a long walk in the morning. If not, go outside and walk for at least 15 minutes at lunch.
BLACK OUT YOUR BEDROOM
Light exposure during sleep can disrupt your sleeping patterns and suppress melatonin levels. Melatonin is essential for a great night of sleep. A simple fix for this is to buy blackout curtains to cover your windows. Check for other sources of light including power cords, cable box, night light, and alarm clock. Turn them off or cover them up.
There are more ways to improve the quality of your sleep, but the above list is a great way to get started. Build a strong foundation for a healthy life by making great sleep a priority.