Sleep is not only part of a healthy lifestyle – it is the foundation of one.
Getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. In fact, it is just as important as eating a balanced, nutritious diet and exercising, however, it is also the most overlooked.
Everything has a rhythm; the tide goes in and out, the season’s change, the footsteps of our stride, the beat of our heart, and the sun rises and sets. It all just happens as it is supposed to, and sleep is supposed to be the same way. A circadian rhythm is the physiological process of all living beings within a 24-hour cycle. This rhythm is generated internally but can be influenced by external factors such as light and temperature. When looking at the patterns of our daily behaviors, such as eating and sleeping, circadian rhythms play an important role.
Before electricity, people stayed in rhythm with nature’s cycle. They would wake up with the sun, work in the daylight and go to bed shortly after dark. Now we live in a 24/7 world. People work the night shift, shows are broadcast around the clock, radio stations play all night, and we have access to our phones. Considering the amenities we have access to, it is easy to see how our rhythms can get out of sync with nature. Having a consistent sleep pattern is important because while sleeping our brain stores important information, gets rid of toxic waste, restores energy, and repairs cells and tissues. Sleep deprivation can be linked to decreased immunity, increased body weight, a higher risk for chronic disease, and a decline in mental and physical health.
Here are some simple things we can do to ensure we get adequate sleep:
- Get enough sleep – Sleep needs change over your life span. As you get older, you require less sleep each night for proper health and wellness. Do your best to sleep for 7-9 hours, however, everyone has different needs. Some people are going to require less sleep, and some will require more. If you feel like you have enough energy to make it through the day or you wake up before your alarm you are probably getting enough sleep. If you wake up groggy, your eyes hurt or are irritated, or you feel like you are dragging and can not make it through the day without a nap, you are probably not sleeping enough or sleeping too much.
- Provide a comfortable environment – It should be dark, quiet, and cool. Investing in a comfortable mattress and pillow can be beneficial for a good night’s sleep and preventing soreness in the morning.
- Establish a routine – Try going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time every day. Do the same task before bed every night whether that is laying out your clothes for the next day, reading, or taking a shower. Find what makes you comfortable and alerts your body that it is time for bed and do it every night.
- Limit blue light exposure – Do not use electronics for at least an hour before bed. Instead, try reading or meditating. Think about leaving it somewhere outside your room to avoid disruptions while you are sleeping and the desire to even pick it up. If you use your phone as your alarm, consider investing in an alarm clock.
- Expose yourself to natural light – Exposure to light, while you are awake, boosts your mood and helps regulate your circadian rhythm. Thus, making your body more in sync with your environment. Being out in the sun provides natural light exposure necessary for our internal clock. Leaving the curtains open at night so that the morning sun streams in is a good strategy. Spending ten minutes outside first thing in the morning, before you look at your phone or turn the lights on is also a good way to boost your mood and wake your body up.
Sleep is one of the most beneficial forms of preventative medicine. It is an excellent prescription for good health. Start prioritizing uninterrupted, good quality sleep and watch the benefits it brings to your life.