Sleep for Good Health
Do you feel irritable or stressed? Are you having a hard time concentrating? Maybe you’re not feeling well physically? Believe it or not, this could all be tied to not getting enough sleep.
Not sleeping enough can lead to a myriad of issues, including:
- Lower mental performance. When you sleep, your brain analyses the day you’ve had and the information it’s taken in, and refreshes itself. Lack of sleep means you didn’t get enough time to do this. Spend even a sleepless night or two, and you’ll find yourself having difficulty concentrating, remembering things, solving problems, and making decisions. This can mean some distractions or inconveniences in your everyday life, but sometimes it can be fatal. For example, according to a nearly decade-long study, almost a quarter of road accidents in Australia alone are caused by drivers falling asleep or feeling tired.
- Out-of-control emotions. Most of us have probably experienced a baby or young child acting cranky and chalking it up to the fact that they needed a nap. We don’t grow out of this need. Being well-rested helps us face difficult or frustrating situations without falling apart – which is especially useful, come to think of it, for parents and caregivers of those sometimes grumpy kids!
- Serious mental health issues. Long-term lack of sleep can result in some very serious issues, including depression, irresponsible behaviour, and even suicide.
Lack of sleep doesn’t just affect your thoughts and emotions. It can also lead to:
- A higher risk of cardiovascular issues and stroke. This is because your circulatory system uses the time you’re sleeping to rest and repair itself.
- A weakened immune system. We all feel a little less ourselves and a little more prone to fatigue when we haven’t been sleeping well. Your immune system feels the exact same way! If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll likely find yourself less able to fight off that cold or flu that’s been running around, not to mention possibly having other health issues.
- Weight gain and diabetes. Sleep is also beneficial for your hormonal balance, and helping your body regulate substances like insulin. When these aren’t functioning properly, you’re likely to feel hungrier than you normally would – and to crave sugary, fatty foods.
- Infertility. Speaking of hormonal balance, well, fertility is of course affected by that, as well. If you’re struggling to get pregnant, simply trying to sleep more is a good place to start.
Many of my clients have difficulty falling asleep or getting enough sleep. Often this is due to aspects of their daily life, like being always connected or on the go. Difficulty sleeping can also be the way some people react to stress. These things are understandable, but as you know by now, sleep is so important.
Here are some things to try that can help you get some more shut-eye:
- Avoid caffeine in the hours before you’re going to head to bed.
- Try to do some significant physical activity each day. This will help expend energy, as well as release positive brain chemicals and reduce stress.
- Have a bedtime routine to help you get into a sleep-ready mindset. Some things you could incorporate into this routine are turning off your phone, computer, or tablet half an hour before bed; reading a chapter of a book; or taking a bath.
- Find solutions for distractions. If noise keeps you awake, put in some earplugs. If you’re light-sensitive, get thick curtains or wear a sleeping mask….
- Create inner calm. Try doing a short yoga routine before heading to bed. Do an online search for “yoga for sleep” to find one adapted to your level, needs, and space.
- Use your nose. As a trained aromatherapist, I often suggest a bit of lavender essential oil before heading to bed, via a diffuser or even lightly applied to a cotton ball in an area near where you’ll rest your head. This natural scent is known for its relaxing properties.
- Write it down. Whether you’re worrying about all the things you have to do tomorrow, or dealing with deeper issues, sometimes just writing down what you’re feeling (or simply making a to-do list) before bedtime can help put your mind at ease.
If none of these strategies work, or if you’re worried about your mental state because of lack of sleep, seeing a therapist is a must. Sleep is a part of our lives for many important reasons; don’t accept it not being a part of yours!