Your problem (and solution) could be in your sleep
“Sleep when you’re dead” is a popular motto, especially among the young, but not getting enough sleep can drastically decrease your quality of life in myriad ways and sabotage any other efforts you’re making to improve your health and habits.
Here are some of the serious side-effects of lack of sleep:
- Your memory suffers
My dog is my sleep consultant, he is a pro
- You program your body to gain weight
- You put yourself at greater risks for accidents during the day
- You become really unpleasant to be around- lack of sleep causes irritability and moodiness
- You put your heart at risk
- You increase your risk of developing diabetes
- You increase the likelihood of alcoholism
- You increase your risk of cancer
- You decrease the effectiveness of your immune system
- You can cause depression and other emotional disorders
(Source: Harvard Women’s Health Watch)
Since I was a little kid I have had a hard time falling asleep. While my husband can pretty much lay down and drift off in minutes, I’m often awake for over an hour getting to sleep. For me, practicing conscious sleep hygiene is critical. Here are some things you can do to improve your sleep, from the National Sleep Foundation:
- Avoid napping during the day; it can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep in the second half as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing arousal.
- Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.
- Food can be disruptive right before sleep; stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Also dietary changes can cause sleep problems, if someone is struggling with a sleep problem, it’s not a good time to start experimenting with spicy dishes. And, remember, chocolate has caffeine.
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children and adults. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don’t dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.
- Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.
- Make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing. The bed should be comfortable, the room should not be too hot or cold, or too bright.
For me, the big ones are limiting evening screen time, limiting caffeine (all day, not just in the later hours), eliminating lights in the room where I’m sleeping (including closing heavy curtains to block streetlights), not eating too late, and being sure to exercise during the day.
Do you think you get enough sleep?