Sleep is an essential part of our daily lives. About 1/3 of our lives are spent being asleep. Often when sleep issues arise, we find that it can have a ripple effect on our mental, emotional, and physical health. This 1/3 of our life establishes the foundation for our overall wellbeing.
Adequate rest has a natural healing effect on the body. As we sleep, all of our bodily systems, including circulatory, neurological, reproductive, muscular, digestive, and lymphatic are improved. Mental benefits from healthy sleep are increased memory, boosted mood, more energy, motivation, productivity, alleviated stress and anxiety, as well as creativity.
Physical conditions such as high blood pressure, headaches, low immune systems, weight gain, cardiovascular issues, and diabetes can be improved or prevented through sleep. Although it is suggested that improving sleep habits can enhance your lifestyle, if you are experiencing any medical-related conditions interfering with sleep, it is advised that you consult with your medical doctor on your symptoms.
Sleep is an easily accessible, holistic, and free treatment for several problem areas. In a “work hard, play hard” culture, sleep is often underrated and underutilized. With this type of mindset, along with sacrificed sleep, one may want to consider, at what cost is it worth to allow yourself to overachieve? As a mental health therapist, I prioritize my own self-care through sleep and it is non-negotiable. Allowing yourself to rest is a form of self-compassion.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is recommended that adults between the ages of 18-64 years old receive 7-9 hours of sleep. Teenagers that are 14-17 should have 8-10 hours per night. While older adults, ages 65 and up are encouraged to have 7-8 hours of sleep. See the image below for more clinically recommended hours of sleep for children by the National Sleep Foundation.
Here are some effective strategies to help prepare you for a restful night of sleep.
- Create an environment for sleep that reflects and promotes feelings of serenity and relaxation.
- A cooler room helps your body naturally produce melatonin, a hormone that is released when our bodies become sleepy. Having a cooler room temperature also makes us want to get cozy under blankets, which can be soothing.
- Blocking out light in your bedroom and creating total darkness is also important for effective sleep. Light exposure through sunlight, smartphones, alarm clocks, and televisions and be disruptive to our melatonin production. Light exposure sends an immediate alert to your brain that it should be awake or that it is daylight. Eliminate screen time 30 minutes before bed, purchase blackout curtains, and dim or cover your digital alarm clock.
- Try to maintain having a clutter-free bedroom, because clutter has a way of visually increasing stress and anxiety.
- Decorate your bedroom with colors and patterns that are relaxing to look at. Some examples of colors to use are blues, teals, light yellows, and greens.
- Add plants to your space. They can help purify the air of pollutants and toxins.
- Use essential oils as a pillow spray, topically, or in a diffuser. They have holistic properties that can help as a natural sleep aid.
- Change your mindset about sleep to think more positively to help you manifest a successful night of sleep. Improving your attitude toward sleep might make you more hopeful and motivated, in achieving your sleep goals. Here are some sample statements.
- “Sleep makes me a healthier version of myself”.
- “I love to sleep”.
- “Resting my body gives me the energy to be prepared for tomorrow”.
- “I can’t wait to relax and go to bed tonight”.
- Cut off caffeinated beverages before noon. Caffeine is a stimulant that can stay in our bodies for at least 6 hours after we consume it. Those with caffeine sensitivity may be affected even longer into the evening.
- Read a book before bed to tire yourself out mentally before bed.
- Journal any stressful or anxious thoughts before bed. Document anything you are afraid to forget before tomorrow in a notebook. Journaling before bed can help clear your mind and reassure you that you can get back to those thoughts later when you are awake.
- Meditate, walk, or practice a deep breathing exercise to release stress hormones in the body.
- Limit all liquid consumption at least one hour before bedtime in order to avoid having to make several trips to the bathroom, which can disturb sleep.
- Try sleep aids such as eye masks, ear plugs, or white noise if you are a light sleeper.
- Repeat a one-word mantra such as “sleep” or “rest” to shut out other thoughts and focus on the sensations associated with that word.
It takes time to experiment with your own healthy sleep habits and it is important to note that not all of these strategies work for everyone. That is ok because your body is just as unique as your personality. What works for someone else may not work for you and vice versa. If sleep problems continue to persist and affect your daily functioning, it is suggested to connect with your primary care doctor to rule out anything medical-related.
“The Calm and Cozy Book of Sleep” By, Beth Wyatt:
The National Sleep Foundation:
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” -Thomas Dekker