Sleep is a necessity that often gets overlooked or compromised as more pressing matters—or worse yet, fearful thoughts—intervene. Quality sleep plays a vital role in maintaining good health. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep every night for optimum performance, health, and safety and to support proper brain function. Lack of sleep can cause irritability, moodiness, or an inability to cope, and it can inflame the fires of anxiety. Sadly, sleep deprivation often leads to an addictive cycle of taking pills to sleep and then taking others to wake up in the morning. It can produce problems in decision making and problem solving and may be linked to depression and suicide.
Unfortunately, sleep deficiency sometimes goes unrecognized until something happens, such as a car crash or health problems, including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or lymphoma. Scientific studies show that poor and insufficient sleep correlates with disease and premature aging.
Sleep is critical for wellbeing. Even a loss of just one to two hours of sleep per night over several days, or odd schedules or time-shift work (suffered by pilots, healthcare practitioners, and night workers), can have an impact on performance levels and potentially result in dangerous and costly errors.
To reduce common sleep problems, consider the following nine basic sleep suggestions:
- Keep a regular schedule of going to bed and getting up as close to the same time as possible. This helps set the body’s regulatory system, the internal clock that responds to circadian rhythms by changing hormone levels. During the daytime, hormone levels create a feeling of alertness. At night, these levels change to encourage sleepiness.
- Establish a regular nighttime routine, taking an extra half-hour prior to bedtime to unwind and relax. Sip warm herbal tea, listen to music, soak in a warm bath, or read quietly. Avoid watching the news or action-packed movies or dramas, which are overly stimulating and can contribute to feelings of anxiety.
- Avoid drinking or eating caffeine within four to six hours of going to bed. This substance often increases hormone levels, making it harder to fall asleep. Alcohol affects the ability to drop into a deep, restorative sleep and tends to produce instead a lighter, less-effective sleep experience.
- Exercise regularly for 20 to 30 minutes during the day but not within several hours of bedtime. Physical activity interferes with natural body rhythms that need to slow down at night to prepare for rest.
- Avoid consuming heavy meals before going to bed. Digestion functions best when the body is upright. When the body is reclined, food may stagnate and become toxic.
- Keep the bedroom dark and quiet. Too much light can disrupt the body’s production of melatonin, which is an important hormone and an antioxidant against cancer. Sharp or loud noises can be irritating and disturb quality sleep.
- Avoid waking up with an alarm clock, which is an abrupt halt to sleep that causes higher blood pressure and heart rate. It’s better to wake up with natural light. If it’s necessary for you to be up before sunrise, set lights on a timer and wake up at the same time everyday so your body can adapt to this sleep schedule.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep or sex. Set the right environment that is conducive to quality sleep; get the TV out of the bedroom. Read in a different room.
- 9. If you absolutely cannot sleep, avoid just lying in bed. Get up and go to another room. Do something else, such as reading or listening to music, until you feel sleepy—usually within about an hour. The worry of being unable to fall asleep can actually perpetuate the problem of insomnia.
If you suffer from persistent sleep problems—where, night after night, you’re struggling to sleep, or you always feel exhausted the next day—you may have a sleep disorder that needs attention. Solicit the advice of a healthcare professional or sleep specialist. Most disorders can be treated very effectively.
Have a good night…and sweet dreams!
Peggy Sealfon is a Personal Development Coach, Author, Motivational Speaker and internationally-recognized as an expert on dealing with stress and anxiety. Peggy effectively coaches clients (and corporate groups) in her IntegratedLifePlan.com, a customized blend of Western and Eastern traditions. Her fast-track, cutting-edge system improves performance and helps create a balanced, productive, happy and healthful life. Her best selling book is Escape From Anxiety-Supercharge Your Life With Powerful Strategies From A to Z. Peggy founded Florida’s Paradise Coast Wellness Alliance and co-founded the online hub for health and wellness at BeWellinParadise.com Her website is: PeggySealfon.com