This month let’s put some bad habits to bed!
If I asked you to reflect on what “health” is or what it means to “be healthy,” your definition might include body weight, exercise and nutrition. It’s also true that “being healthy” can be thought of as joy in movement, balanced nutrition, stress management, social connectedness and……….quality sleep.
Sleep is essential for health!
According to the American Sleep Association, sleep issues and sleepiness are a huge health concern. Statistics indicate that:
- 50-70 million American adults suffer from some type of sleep disorder
- 9% of American adults reported falling asleep during the day (unintentionally)
- 37% of 20- to 39-year-olds report short sleep duration, while 40% of 40- to 59-year-olds report short sleep duration
- 3% of adults report less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period (even 30 minutes less than the minimum carries consequences)
Adults need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep each night, yet more than one-third of the population does not get the minimum number of recommended hours.
Consequences of Inadequate Quality Sleep
Inadequate sleep carries many consequences. When sleep quality and duration are poor, you tend to have less energy, experience less self-regulatory control, develop an increased craving for sweet, salty, and starchy foods, and have higher levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and lower levels of leptin (appetite-control hormone).
And if that wasn’t bad enough news, there’s a 50% higher risk for obesity if you get fewer than five hours of sleep each night. Other negative consequences of inadequate sleep include immune system deficiencies, increased blood pressure, increased risk for heart disease, increased risk of developing depression and anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness, and an inability to focus.
Wow, that’s a long list of what happens when high quality sleep isn’t happening!
In short, experiencing sleep deprivation and trying to work, live and function in a sleep-deprived state has significant consequences on long-term health. Sleep fitness and hygiene are just as important as physical fitness and health.
Steps for Building Better Sleep Habits
Similar to developing physical fitness, sleep fitness takes effort. You need to implement small changes in daily behaviors to promote and support better sleep. Before change can occur, you have to raise your level of awareness, and the best place to begin is by examining and tracking your sleep habits throughout the week.
Observe such things as:
- What you do before bed (read, watch TV, scroll social media, etc.)
- What time you turn the lights out
- What time you rise
- Caffeine and alcohol intake
- What time you eat dinner
- The temperature of your room
- The type of light you’re exposed to before bed
- Your energy levels throughout the day
- How many hours of sleep you think you get each night
By journaling your observations, you are more likely to discover a pattern of behavior and make connections between the quality of your sleep and your behaviors. Once you have an idea of what your sleep ritual, routine, and contributing (or detracting) behaviors are, you can refine your habits to promote better quality and more restorative sleep.
***Always remember your brain fitness and being able to outsmart cognitive loss begins here***
Make Small Changes
No two people need the same things to sleep well. Building habits for healthier sleep, such as regular physical activity and good nutrition, is highly personal. Taylor these changes to YOUR needs and goals.
Here are a few tips that will give your sleep experience a boost:
- Create a calming and consistent nighttime routine that allows for 30 minutes of “winding down” time. This means avoiding bringing your laptop or phone to bed (avoid exposure to screens and blue light in general). Dim the lights as bright lights can hinder melatonin production. Test methods of relaxation to see what works best. Try reading, bedtime yoga, a hot bath, meditation or mindful breathing. I enjoy a cold shower before bed!
- Be physically active. Every day. Exercise has been shown to support improved sleep.
- Reduce alcohol consumption. It disrupts sleep later in the night.
- Reduce caffeine intake in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine is a natural stimulant and can keep you wired for hours after consumption.
- Avoid eating a large meal too close to bedtime. It may cause discomfort.
- Create consistency in your bedtime and rising time. Make an effort to go to bed at the same time and rise at the same time. As tempting as it is to sleep in on the weekends or the days you have off from work, this disrupts your sleep pattern.
- Enjoy some natural light early in the day. Sunlight helps regulate your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
- Invest in a comfortable pillow and mattress that offers full-body support.
- Many people feel it’s easier to sleep with “white noise” such as a fan or portable machine.
Practicing effective and consistent sleep hygiene will not always resolve sleep issues. If you experience chronic fatigue, consistently poor sleep or any physical ailments that may be related to lack of sleep, it’s important to seek the counsel of a sleep specialist and/or your primary care provider. Sleep disorders need specific attention.
You may notice that yes, I talk and write about sleep a lot. It’s such an essential part of living our best healthy lifestyle! No matter what clients seek when we work together, one of the very first conversations I’ll have with them is about sleep. Any improvements start from the bed up!
Until next month, find Joyinmovement each and every day!
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