Your body needs sleep. The funny thing about our busy lifestyles is that we’re often tricked into thinking a good night’s sleep is a luxury–something you do when you have the time. And you can come up with all kinds of reasons not to sleep: you’re too busy with work, you have too many new shows to catch up on, you have to check Twitter one last time.
The problem is that the long-term consequences of lack of sleep are significant and chronic, much more serious than a little lethargy and a lack of energy. Getting better quality sleep is fundamentally important to your overall health. So missing out on good quality sleep can quickly become a health concern.
What Are the Health Benefits of Better Quality Sleep?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, if possible, as this is the range in which the benefits of sleep are maximized. The benefits of a good night’s sleep include the following:
- You’ll feel better and find it easier to concentrate: These are perhaps the most obvious benefits of a good night’s sleep. You won’t be dragging your feet the next day.
- Your immune system will function better: Making sure you get enough sleep is a good way to help protect your body from disease. Regularly get a good night’s rest, and you’ll get sick less often.
- Your risk of heart disease and stroke will decrease: Good sleeping habits can lower your risk of stroke and chronic heart disease. Additionally, a good night’s rest may even lower your risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Your mental health will be easier to manage: Sleep loss can have significant mental health repercussions–including both the development of depression or the worsening of symptoms. Getting enough sleep can help manage depression risks.
- Your diabetes risk may decrease: Missing out on a good night’s sleep may lead to the development of prediabetic symptoms (as lack of sleep can mess with your metabolic functions). Good sleep habits (along with diet and exercise) can help keep diabetes at bay.
- Lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease: Lack of sleep may lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. So ensuring you get 7-9 hours of sleep a night could help protect your brain in the long run.
These benefits aren’t distributed evenly, of course, and everyone’s body is different. But there’s no doubt that your body runs better with good quality sleep. And so it’s not surprising that you will be healthier when you’re sleeping well.
Tips for Sleeping
Of course, not everyone stays up late by choice. Nearly 30% of all Americans suffer from short term insomnia from time to time. Others never really learned good sleep habits, so they aren’t entirely sure how to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Tips to Help You Fall Asleep
Here are some tips that can help you fall asleep better and faster:
- Stick to a schedule: Your body will develop a cycle around when it’s supposed to fall asleep and when it’s supposed to wake up.
- Make sure you see the sun: This is especially valuable for those in northern latitudes: make sure you see the sun every day. Experience lightness and darkness so your body can acknowledge the passage of time.
- Focus on your breathing: There are many breathing activities that can help you fall asleep at night, including the famous 4-7-8 method. The idea is to focus on your breathing so that you stop thinking about the day-to-day stressors that could preoccupy your mind.
Tips to Help You Stay Sleeping
- Do not use alcohol to fall asleep: Alcohol is not a good sleep aid. Alcohol consumption leads to restless and interrupted sleep (in addition to a host of other health problems).
- Avoid caffeine after noon: Caffeine can linger in the system and upset your sleep balance. Try to get your coffee or tea drinking in before noon to give the caffeine enough time to leave your body.
- Avoid naps: Naps can feel good in the moment, but can sometimes completely mess with your sleep cycle.
Solutions if You’re Having Trouble Sleeping
Getting better quality sleep is important, but that doesn’t mean it will always be easy. There are some ways you can help yourself get a restful eight hours of sleep. Those solutions could include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI): One of the most widely respected and effective evidence-based approaches to helping individuals sleep, CBTI involves working with a specialist to reframe and recontextualize the way you think about sleep. A CBTI specialist will work with you to develop behaviors that can interrupt dysfunctional cycles and restructure associations. It often takes between 6-8 sessions to begin achieving results, but those results tend to be longer lasting and good for your health.
- Changing daytime behaviors: What you do during the day can have an enormous impact on how you sleep. So talk to your primary care physician about how you can adopt behaviors that promote healthy sleep habits. For example, eating just before you want to sleep or working from your bed can hamper your ability to reach a restful sleep cycle.
Medication for sleeping is often a last resort, and should never be used long term unless prescribed by a doctor.
Talk to Your Doctor About Sleep
Many individuals don’t get the proper rest because they just don’t know how important sleep can be. But others might need some help achieving better quality sleep. In either case, a talk with your physician is often a good place to start. At Progressive Health Primary Care, your membership means you can schedule a conversation with your physician at no extra cost.
To talk to a physician about your sleep, contact us today to schedule an appointment.