By Sarah Spitz, LMSW
Research has made it clear that sleep is vital for good health, but many of us still fail to get enough of it. While we may take our health seriously in many ways—getting in regular work outs and eating a balanced diet—sleep seems to easily take a back seat. In a society where success is often measured on our productivity, and pride is taken in having the busiest schedule, there is very little time left for sleep. While sacrificing sleep may give us more time to work, exercise and socialize, what is the price? Unfortunately it’s quite a high one.
So why is sleep so important?
- It affects our physical health. Getting good sleep supports growth and development, proper body functioning and our immune system. If we don’t get enough sleep, our body’s defenses are weakened, putting us at increased risk for getting sick!
- It supports our mental health. Sleep helps support brain functioning, influencing our reaction time and productivity, as well as how we learn, make decisions, and solve problems. So for the sake of both an important business meeting or driving a car safely, sleep is crucial.
- It is connected to our emotional wellbeing. Most of us can probably relate to feeling grumpy after a night of very little sleep. When we are sleep deprived we are more likely to be irritable, depressed and vulnerable to stress.
It is evident that sleep has a profound affect on all aspects of our health, so what can we do to get more of it? The first step is to gain awareness of current sleep patterns. Once you have a general idea of your situation, finding solutions becomes easier. For example, ask yourself some of these questions: How long am I sleeping each night? Is there a lot of variability in my sleep schedule? Does it take me a long time to fall asleep? How do I feel when I get into bed? Try tracking your sleep for a week or two to see if you notice anything. Below are some common sleep issues and some tips to get you started.
- "I go to bed at a different time every night.” Having a routine can be really helpful to get your sleep on track. Try aiming to go to bed around the same time each night, so you can begin to regulate your internal clock.
- “Even if I get in bed earlier, I am just not tired.” If this is the case, try to figure out why. Eating close to bedtime, drinking caffeine later in the day, and using electronics late at night can all have an impact. Experiment and see if a “no technology after 9pm” rule, or switching to herbal tea instead of coffee after 3pm influences how you feel.
- “When I try to sleep my mind is racing.” Try finding a calming ritual to do before bed. You can experiment with meditation, yoga, or listening to relaxing music. You can also try out different apps to help you wind down at the end of the day.
While there are many reasons why we find it hard to get enough sleep, and no one-size-fits-all solution, it is all about trying out new methods and seeing what works for you.
Sarah Spitz is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you are looking for support in finding solutions to enhance your overall wellness, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to see how therapy can help.