The Importance of Sleep

Now, one thing that I’ve been trying to be better about in these past few weeks has been my sleep. There are some nights when I wake up seven times in a night, there are other nights where it takes me an hour to get to sleep, and there are other days still where I do sleep, but not well. All of this contributes to how my day starts off and where it inevitably goes. I have been starting my days off with awful sleep, and therefore starting them off on the wrong foot.

But why do I know that sleep is the culprit?

Lack of sleep leads to trouble in decision making, problem solving, and emotional control, as well as lack of attention and creativity. How am I supposed to have a good day if a bad night’s sleep ruins so many aspects? So in my reflection, I found that in order to have a better day, I needed the strong foundation of a good night(‘s sleep).

But perhaps you’re not convinced. Perhaps you’re wondering why I’m even writing about sleep – after all, this is a health & fitness blog. To those who are thinking this, I say the following:

  1. Health is not just cardio and weightlifting and eating right. Health is your body working correctly, your emotions being relatively stable, your mental state being relatively stable, your love life and platonic relationships bringing you joy, etc. Health reaches all aspects of your life… even sleep.
  2. How does sleep impact your health? It is widely known and studied that when you sleep, your body goes into a reparative state, and into a state of maintenance. This includes everything from immune system maintenance, hormone development and balance, and muscle growth and repair.

If you still aren’t convinced of the importance of sleep, then check out some references here, here, and here.

Okay, I can hear you now.

You: Okay Krys, you’ve convinced me. Sleep is important. But how do I get good sleep?

And do I have an answer for you. Here are six tips to getting better sleep:

  1. Have a consistent wake up and bed time. Routine strengthens your circadian rhythm, and allows your body to be ready to sleep when you get to bed, thus increasing your likelihood of getting good, restorative sleep.
  2. Have a wind-down routine. Once again, this goes into the bodily reason of kind of tricking your body into getting sleepy by giving it consistent cues that it is time to go to bed soon. This may include simple things, like turning on a diffuser or reading a book, but include at least three things that you do every night before bed, as a little routine.
  3. Don’t eat too close to bedtime. I would give you a specific time – ex: 60 minutes – but each body is different in terms of how fast you digest and metabolize the foods you eat. As a rule of thumb, just stay away from eating right before bed. Give yourself enough time for your stomach to settle, and don’t have anything too sugary for your last meal.
  4. Don’t exercise within a few hours of bed time – the exercise that close to bed time will energize you and lead to trouble sleeping or bad sleep.
  5. Regularly exercise (once again, just not too close to bedtime)! Exercise can help effect that circadian rhythm which I mentioned earlier, so when you do this during the day, it helps you stay awake during the day, and the natural use of energy when you consistently work out helps to make you sleepier at night.
  6. One thing a psychologist I once worked with noted when I was chatting to her about sleep was that you shouldn’t be looking at a clock if you get up in the middle of the night. I looked it up, and there’s support for it! Basically, checking the time has two main adverse effects: it makes you more anxious (making it difficult to sleep) and it creates an idea of routine in your body… the only problem is that this routine will also edit your circadian rhythm, telling it that every night you need to wake up to check that clock. Not the most convenient thing.

So what have we learned? Get good sleep, and there’s a million tips on how to do just that. In a pinch, you can also take melatonin, though I would only use that sparingly. If you have serious chronic insomnia, you should also talk to your doctor.

Now go out there and catch some Zs!

Krys Kestrel (@kryskestrel on ig)

References:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Any advice here is not a replacement for professional medical advice.

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