Despite the importance of sleep, many people these days aren’t getting enough sleep and, when they do, still have problems getting high quality sleep. This is a problem, because sleep is important for maintaining many parts of daily life. A lack of sleep can cause disorientation and exhaustion, not to mention poor mental health. These tips will help you create a better sleep schedule that can power your life.
One of the more surprising aspects of sleep requirements is that high quality sleep depends on consistency. This is the origin of the term “sleep schedule,” although it still goes unrealized by many who stick to tracking the amount of sleep they get in isolation. Sleeping at a consistent time of day is important, because it allows the body and brain a full 24 hour period between going to bed each night and, more importantly, a full 16 hours between waking up and going to sleep.
During this time, the body can naturally become more tired and ready for sleep, allowing you to sleep more deeply and restoratively. Establishing a habit can take as little as 3 weeks, but it takes a concerted effort to make sure that that happens. One great way to do that is to develop a morning routine and a nightly routine that can bookend and solidify your sleep schedule. For example, you can start each day with Morning Complete and a cup of coffee, and you can prepare for bed with a nice hot shower.
The go-to understanding of a person’s sleep needs is that a body needs 8 hours of sleep each night. While this alone isn’t enough to keep your body and mind healthy, it’s a good place to start, and many people still aren’t hitting the mark. 8 hours is almost half of your entire day, so it makes sense that you might want more time awake to enjoy yourself or to accomplish more, but it’s essential to give your body plenty of time at rest each day.
The good news is that you can fudge the numbers a bit, because recent studies have shown that 8 hours is not a hard and fast rule. Rather, 7 to 9 hours of sleep is what is required, so you can aim for a little bit more or less depending on your schedule. On the other hand, any less than 5 hours of sleep a night will result in symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Sleeping during the same time frame each night is important, but that’s only one part of ensuring the tranquil kind of sleep your body needs to recover from your daily activity. Regular exercise is another key component to a good night’s sleep, because that, in tandem with a 16 hour day, will ensure that your body is tired enough to get to sleep easily and to stay asleep with minimal disruptions, thereby resulting in restorative sleep.
Staying active can be difficult in its own right, so, like sleep, you need to make a routine out of it. While working out can make you tired on one hand, it can also be energizing on the other, so it makes for a good fit for your morning routine. A light jog first thing in the morning can be a good wakeup call and can better prepare you to tackle the day, at the office or otherwise.
One of the biggest factors working against the sleep of the average person is work. Jobs that entail an erratic schedule can wreak havoc on an employee’s sleeping patterns, leading to more exhausted workers. However, those who can afford to have a better sleep schedule often fail to realize it for various reasons. For instance, even jobs that don’t disrupt your schedule can still serve as a reason to burn the candle at both ends, either to get more work done or, more often than not, get more leisure time in before going to work the next day.
There’s not always something to be done about this problem, but you can attempt to resolve it by going to your boss with a well articulated explanation of your needs. Realistically, it shouldn’t be an issue for your schedule to be more consistent, provided that each shift is covered, one way or another, and work-life balance is known to be an important factor of any job, so your boss will more than likely see reason and help keep you healthy and ready to work by making your shifts more consistent.
Another surprising fact about sleep is that the worst thing you can do to your body is to go straight from staring at a screen to trying to sleep. This is because modern LED TVs and computer monitors emit a blue tinted light that has been shown to help people stay awake, and this can run counter to trying to fall asleep at night. Therefore, it’s advised that avoid screens of any kind for at least half an hour before bed time.
On the other hand, there are also solutions to the problem other than abstinence. For example, specialized, yellow-tinted glasses filter out the blue light of LED screens, preventing this problem from occurring. Likewise, many devices have built in “nightlights” that apply a filter to your screen to the same end. These apps aren’t as effective as either glasses or abstinence, but they can still be instrumental in getting a good night’s sleep after late night use of computers and smartphones. These apps tend to offer automation based on the time of day, making them even more useful, because they can protect you from yourself and your ability to forget.
The connection between mental health and sleep is a two way street. Poor sleep quality can worsen your mood, for starters, it can deprive your brain of the restful sleep it needs to resolve various processes. On the other hand, poor mental health can cause sleep-related problems. For example, anxiety can cause difficulty when it comes to getting to sleep, and it can lead to an increase in nightmare and anxiety-inducing dreams. Likewise, anxiety can lead to insomnia by disrupting sleep and contributing to a cycle of not being able to sleep which only reinforces the anxiety at the heart of the problem.
Sleep is an important part of maintaining your body and your mind, but it often falls by the wayside in modern life. It’s important to recognize how your sleeping patterns might be detrimental so that you can improve them in order to provide your body with the 40 winks it needs to reach peak performance.
Most know that good sleep is important, however, they may not realize how many things they are doing that are secretly sabotaging their sleep. By finding ways to reduce stress, as well as practicing better sleep hygiene, you can start reducing stress and improving your sleep quality today.
Starting with the tips above can lead you to healthier sleep patterns; and a sleep diary or journal can keep track of changed habits. Quite often patients have a sleep study without adequate information into their nightly habits and get diagnosed with Insufficient Sleep Syndrome, which is basically having terrible sleep as a result of voluntary (albeit unintentional) behaviors that impact their sleep negatively.
If you start to notice a negative pattern that could be corrected by your own choices, make changes after a week and see how your next week goes. If there is a vast improvement to your sleep, you may be able to correct the behavior yourself and avoid having an unnecessary sleep study.
A sleep study may still be the best choice though the type of sleep study varies by a patient’s symptoms. Healthcare providers will monitor your sleep either in a lab or at your home using portable home sleep apnea testing equipment.
If you live in Alaska and are ready to take back your sleep, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic and receive a free 10-minute phone consultation with a sleep educator who can help you determine if a sleep study is right for you.