Exhausted? You Might Not Actually Be Getting the Sleep You NeedFeb 05, 2021
Sleep is so much more important than most of us think.
In terms of wellness and feeling as great as we possibly can, our quality of sleep should be our highest priority.
This is surprising for a lot of people, since what most experts focus on in the health and wellness industry is exercise and nutrition, and maybe some stress management techniques.
But sleep is actually the thing that has to come before all else. It's the thing that gives us enough energy to exercise, enough decision-making power to decide what our bodies actually need to consume that day, enough mental clarity to make other positive and healthy decisions throughout the day.
The really sneaky and insidious thing about this is that we often don't actually know when we're sleep deprived! Studies have shown that when people are sleep deprived even after a few nights, they will say they feel fine, but perform much lower on cognitive, emotional, and physical tests.
When we don't get enough sleep, our memory, mood, capacity to concentrate, immune system, and motor skills are negatively impacted.
Lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of car accidents, problems in relationships, and poor work performance. It is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, unhealthy weight gain, and depression.
This is a big deal!
And the antidote is totally FREE: sleep enough!
Even if you're getting 7 hours of sleep, which many of us think is "enough," it's still probably not quite the amount you need. Most people need 7.5–8.5 hours of sleep. Notice that 7.5 is the low end of the range. I for one need about 8.5 hours on average. If you continue to press snooze in the morning when you're trying to wake up, it might just be that you're not actually getting the amount of sleep you need!
Additionally, we need more sleep in the winter months. Our circadian rhythm is dependent on the cycles of the sun. So in the winter, when the sun is hidden for longer, our bodies actually need more rest. It's shocking how few people know this, and even though they feel more tired during the winter, they don't allow themselves that extra 30+ min of sleep their bodies need, thinking they have to keep pushing through. Please cut yourself a break and allow your body to get more sleep this time of year.
Unfortunately, our culture prioritizes productivity over wellness, and that includes sleep quality and quantity. The common phrase "you can sleep when you're dead" is ironic because if we don't sleep now, that end might happen sooner than if we did get the sleep we needed.
So if you're wondering where to start in your wellness journey, start with sleep.
And if you're struggling with where to start in getting the sleep you need, below are some tips for beginning your sleep journey.
Tips for falling (and staying) asleep:
- Set a 'Get Ready for Bed' alert on your phone
- If you are sensitive to light, make your room as dark as possible. Even if you're traveling, cover windows and little lights in the room.
- If you're sensitive to sound, make your room as quiet as possible. This might even mean using earplugs!
- If you have trouble sleeping soundly or wake up in the night and can't fall back asleep, it might be related to your use of caffeine, alcohol, or marijuana. Lessening consumption of these things can help you stay asleep for the whole night.
- Turn off your tech earlier. You know about the blue light and the stimulation that comes from your phone, computer, and TV. This is your reminder to actually put them away sooner!
- Make sure you get enough movement in during the day. It's harder to fall asleep when our bodies haven't expended enough energy!
- If your mind tends to race when trying to sleep, journal about your day/through the thoughts circling around in your head before bed.
- If you do end up going to sleep later than normal, allow yourself some time to sleep in in the morning... without feeling guilty!
Want to find out which habit might make the biggest difference in your life? Take the Healthy Habits Quiz below to find out!
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