8 Healthy Sleep Habits That Can Work Wonders in Healing
Without sleep, we would be walking zombies, and that is no exaggeration. The brain cannot function properly without enough sleep which spirals into a million undesirable health consequences. Okay, a million may have been a bit of an exaggeration but seriously, skimping on beauty rest has some serious health effects. So for your sake, let's form some healthy sleep habits.
- Our brains and bodies cannot function without sleep
- Sleep makes us happier, improves learning, enables us to make better decisions, keeps us healthy, and keeps us safe
- Healthy sleep habits include sticking to a schedule, keeping a cool bedroom, minimizing light exposure, relaxing, putting work away, snacking, exercising, and setting a bedtime alarm
Despite being so crucial for brain function and overall health and wellness, 35.2% of Americans report sleeping on average less than the seven hours of sleep recommended for adults. Moreover, 30 to 40 percent of Americans suffer from insomnia, a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.
It’s safe to say American’s are racking up a hefty sleep debt. I’d bet the accumulation of this sleep debt is because many do not realize how crucial sleep is. Thus, they fail to create healthy sleep habits like minimizing light exposure and creating work time boundaries.
If you are here reading this article, unhealthy sleep habits are getting left in the dust. Creating healthy sleep habits is no easy feat, but making small changes over time will make a world of difference.
What Does Our Body Do While We Sleep?
While we sleep, our body replenishes and recharges, preparing us for the day ahead.
- The brain forms new pathways to aid in learning and to store new information
- Heals and repairs the heart and blood vessels
- Regulates hormones (hunger, insulin, developmental, and more)
- Strengthens the immune system
- The brains detoxes toxins
Why Is Sleep So Important?
We do not realize it, but sleep plays a role in every aspect of life. Sleep impacts mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. Rest makes us happier, improves learning, enables us to make better decisions, keeps us healthy, and keeps us safe.
Not catching enough zzz’s has serious health consequences, including but not limited to…
- Risk-taking behavior
- Inability to concentrate
- Mood Swings
- Increased risk of diseases
- Increased risk of early death
- Weight gain
- Enhances learning and problem-solving skills
- Enhances creativity
- Enhances focus
- Happier emotions
- Stronger immune system
- Better motor function
- More energy throughout the day
- A healthier gut
Listening to Your Body
Sleep, specifically unhealthy sleep habits, are the root cause of many issues. The consequences of not getting enough sleep can be a vicious cycle. What may result from lack of sleep can turn into a reason you are not getting enough sleep. For example, anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep, and lack of sleep can worsen anxiety.
On the other hand, our body may be trying to alert us of a bigger issue in our body if we cannot sleep. Some medical conditions that cause sleep problems include mental health problems, neurological disorders, thyroid issues, diabetes, kidney disease, and heartburn. Listen to your body and seek medical attention if you believe there is a larger underlying cause of poor sleep.
8 Healthy Sleep Habits
If you are tired (no pun intended) of getting insufficient sleep and would like to feel energetic and accomplish more in your day, you are in the right place. These eight healthy sleep habits will transform your night of rest and enable you to catch the quality zzzs you need and deserve.
The healthiest sleep habit is sticking to a schedule. Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day (yes, even the weekends) helps regulate the body’s internal clock and melatonin production. Exercising and eating at or around the same time every day also helps regulate the body’s internal clock.
2. Keep it Cool
Our bodies use environmental cues, including temperature, to know when it is time to sleep. A cooler room, ideally between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, initiates melatonin (the sleep hormone) production and aids with the body’s circadian rhythm (the process that regulates the body’s sleep cycle).
You can keep a cool bedroom by regulating your thermostat, swapping out bedding, and keeping your room dark. Taking a hot shower before bed will also lower your internal body temperature.
3. Keep Light Exposure to a Minimum Before Bed
As previously mentioned, our bodies use environmental cues to know when it is time to sleep. Light signals to the body that it needs to remain alert and awake, inhibiting melatonin production and the body’s circadian rhythm. Dimming lights and putting away screens of all types at least an hour before bedtime helps the body calm down, know sleep is near, and produce melatonin.
Relaxing is easier said than done, but it is essential to achieve a quality night’s sleep. Stress and other stimulating activities like video games or hard conversations keep the body pumping with stimulating hormones to keep the body alert. You might think watching or listening to your favorite crime show is relaxing, but it can be quite stimulating to the brain and body before bed. Going for a walk, journaling, stretching, yoga, meditation, and other calming activities will help the body relax and prepare for bed.
5. Put Work Away
Creating boundaries between your personal and work/school life is crucial to getting a good night’s rest. Working late hours keeps the brain alert, the body stimulated and potentially exacerbates stress. Not to mention, you are probably sitting in front of a screen! Creating a cut-off time, at least one hour before bed, and participating in relaxing activities help the body and brain unwind and destress while also minimizing light exposure from a screen.
You should avoid eating large meals before bedtime. Doctors recommend your last big meal being at least 3 hours before bedtime! However, everyone’s body is different, and a healthy, light snack could play a significant role in your sleep. Low blood sugar and calorie deficits may stir an individual awake. A light, healthy snack before bed helps regulate insulin levels throughout the night and mitigate calorie deficits that may wake you.
7. Move Your Body
Exercise reduces stress, expels energy, and is a crucial ingredient for great sleep. Participating in non-strenuous activities such as walking, stretching, and restorative yoga helps relieve tension and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body relax.
High to medium-intensity workouts are best left for the mornings and afternoons because they produce stimulating endorphins and chemicals that can make it difficult for the body to rest.
8. Set A Bedtime Alarm
If you have trouble creating boundaries or lose track of time, setting a bedtime alarm notifies you that it is time to get ready for bed. The alarm might remind you to drop your thermostat, take a hot shower, turn off any screens, stretch, or snack. It will help keep your body on a schedule and keep you accountable.
You do not have to incorporate all eight habits at once to see the benefits of better sleep. Easing into the process, adding one or two in at a time, will make a world of difference. Say goodbye to poor sleep and hello to a more energetic, refreshed, and accomplished you with healthy sleep habits.
Written by Lauren Conklin