Enhance Sleep Quality with These Practices
Achieving a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep might feel like a distant aspiration—a play on words intended. In an era where burnout has been worn as a badge of honor for so long, the prevailing trend has been to sacrifice sleep in the pursuit of advancement. Nonetheless, as new research highlighting the advantages of sleep gains traction, there’s a noticeable cultural shift towards valuing sleep over toiling into the late hours.
Why is Skimping on Sleep Problematic? A study from 2016 revealed that 40% of Americans sleep for less than six hours per night. While the common knowledge is that eight hours is the ideal benchmark for sleep, what’s the true consequence of missing a couple of hours each night? The impact might be more significant than you anticipate.
To begin with, insufficient or poor-quality sleep can disrupt hormones, potentially leading to weight gain and complicating weight loss efforts. Specifically, the hormone responsible for signaling fullness (leptin) gets suppressed, while the hormone that stimulates hunger (ghrelin) becomes more active.
THIS IMPLIES THAT WHEN WE’RE DEPRIVED OF SUFFICIENT SLEEP, WE’RE PRONE TO FEELING HUNGRY EVEN WHEN WE’RE NOT AND STRUGGLING TO FEEL SATIATED EVEN WHEN WE ARE.
This vicious cycle results in overeating and cravings for quick energy sources like sugary snacks to combat fatigue.
Moreover, inadequate sleep is linked to a higher risk of degenerative conditions such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and has even been associated with ADHD and depression.
So, perhaps staying up that extra hour (or two) for a Netflix binge isn’t as worthwhile as it seems!
Thankfully, there are uncomplicated strategies we can all adopt to enhance our sleep hygiene and potentially transition into becoming early risers—though that last part might be a stretch for some. Regardless, armed with these techniques, even those who thrive at night can wake up revitalized. Let’s delve into the concept of sleep hygiene and explore how we can optimize our sleep.
Understanding Sleep Hygiene and How to Cultivate It The National Sleep Foundation defines sleep hygiene as a collection of diverse practices and habits crucial for achieving high-quality nighttime sleep and maintaining alertness during the day.
IN SIMPLE TERMS, SLEEP HYGIENE ENCOMPASSES THE DAILY AND NIGHTLY ROUTINES THAT FACILITATE FALLING ASLEEP AND STAYING ASLEEP, ENSURING WE WAKE UP REFRESHED AND READY TO EMBRACE THE DAY.
As creatures of habit, routines resonate with us. Certain activities throughout the day even prepare our bodies for what’s next. For instance, the aroma of food triggers saliva release in anticipation of eating.
Likewise, having a pre-sleep routine can prime your mind and body for bedtime consistency, a crucial component of achieving the much-needed deep sleep.
Tips for Practicing Sleep Hygiene
#1 This brings us to the first sleep hygiene tip: Establish a Routine
Strive to retire to bed at the same time every night. Your routine might encompass setting an alarm for your pre-bed preparations.
Power down electronic devices, perform your nighttime oral care routine, don your sleepwear, and snuggle into bed with a captivating book. Alternatively, indulge in a warm bath and sip chamomile tea. Granted, not necessarily each evening, but this can serve as an effective shortcut to sleep when stress hinders winding down. The essence here is nurturing a nightly ritual so your brain associates these actions with deep, rejuvenating slumber.
#2 The second piece of advice often proves to be the most challenging for individuals to adhere to: No Screen Time
The guiding principle here is to abstain from screens and excessive light exposure (including laptops, televisions, cellphones, tablets, and sometimes even light bulbs) for 1-2 hours prior to bedtime. This recommendation stems from the fact that the blue light emitted by our devices disrupts our circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm serves as our internal clock, dictating when we should awaken and when we should retire. If we encounter excessive blue light late in the evening, our brain becomes misled into believing it’s daytime. This impairs our ability to fall asleep and obtain deep sleep.
LACK OF DEEP SLEEP RESULTS IN ELEVATED LEVELS OF THE STRESS HORMONE, CORTISOL, THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT. PERSISTENT PATTERNS OF SUCH DISRUPTION, SPANNING DAYS, WEEKS, MONTHS, OR YEARS, CAN NEGATIVELY IMPACT THE BODY AND ITS HORMONAL EQUILIBRIUM.
You might wonder about Nightshift mode. While it offers some improvement, it’s not a comprehensive solution; at this stage, if not the blue light, your engagement with the device’s content will likely affect your sleep.
#3 The third recommendation, when executed correctly, is highly effective in promoting sleep, particularly if you’re prone to lying awake pondering the events of the day or your forthcoming tasks: Diaphragmatic/Belly Breathing
Engaging in 2-10 minutes of deep abdominal breathing, akin to practices in yoga, induces your body’s parasympathetic state (also known as the ‘rest and digest’ mode). Should you find yourself replaying the day’s occurrences incessantly at night, your body might interpret this as stress.
Conscious focus on our breathing redirects our attention from the inner mental chatter, quieting our thoughts. This solitary action can often be adequate to trigger the shift into a parasympathetic state, allowing you to drift into sleep.
In Conclusion In brief, high-quality sleep in sufficient quantities is a cornerstone of optimal health. Sleep deficiency can lead to weight gain, heightened cardiovascular disease risk, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.
Cultivating proper sleep hygiene practices—such as establishing a bedtime routine, curtailing or eliminating screen exposure 1-2 hours before sleep, and engaging in diaphragmatic breathing 2-10 minutes before bedtime—can fundamentally alter your ability to fall asleep and remain asleep.
Feel free to put these recommendations to the test tonight and gauge the impact on your well-being!