Just like eating and breathing, sleep is a vital process to keep us alive. Also just like breathing and eating, the quality of sleep the general population gets is extremely variable. In our society, our lives are focused on keeping appointments, meeting deadlines, and almost never finding time for ourselves. When we are at our busiest and time seems to move too quickly, many of us borrow time that we should be sleeping during just to be able to get our work done and keep our heads above water.
If you are the type of person who sleeps five hours a night during the week and twelve on the weekends, you may think you’re averaging seven hours a night and that’s fine, but in reality it is not the same as getting a consistent amount of sleep. This tells us that not only is how much we sleep important, but also what we eat or do before bed, how we sleep, and our internal environment can affect how our bodies respond to sleep.
Sleep has been studied thoroughly and there are places around the world to study the biochemistry of the body and how sleep affects it. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to many disease processes and disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, all of which can be fatal. Also, there have been studies done on shift workers who have reversed wake-sleep cycles. Our bodies release hormones at certain times of the day that control how our bodies function, because we have a natural 24 hour circadian rhythm that is determined by our biological clock. The circadian rhythm is drastically changed when people do shift work. This has been linked to poor mental performance and an increase in major diseases, both directly and indirectly.
But despite how easy it is to mess up your sleep, it’s also super easy to get back on track! Here are some tips to get better sleep:
- Try not to expose yourself to bright lights before bed – even though electricity is a necessary part of modern life, human bodies have not caught up yet and are still “programmed” to go to sleep and wake up with the sun. An easy way to do this is to buy amber bulbs to use before bed to block blue, harsh light.
- Don’t drink caffeine after lunch – Although caffeine is able to be used to boost focus and performance, it is a stimulant nonetheless and will aid in you not being able to fall asleep. Some people can handle caffeine closer to bedtime than others, so after lunch is merely a suggestion, and you should try to figure out what works for your body.
- Create a bedtime routine – If you try to get to bed at the same time and wake up at generally the same time every day, you will find yourself feeling more rested and less tired throughout the day. You can also add things like reading a book, drinking a cup of tea, turning off electronics, or eating a small snack to this routine as well.
- Keep your bed a sacred space – Never work where you sleep, because your bed should be a special place for you to recharge and rest. Even a semi-stressful experience like work should be kept away from your bed so you do not associate the two things.
Sleep is incredibly important, and there is much more you can do than this to feel more rested. If you want to learn what these things are, please contact Flourish Integrative Health at Info@FlourishIntegrative.com or 415.721.2990.