Sleep is a regulated biological function, part of the body’s homeostasis, universally experienced as a state of unawareness, in which most of us will spend nearly one-third of our lives. It affects our lives on many levels and touches so many other bodily functions that when it is disrupted, we can be left with very serious deficits.
In the USA, nearly 25% of the population complains of some kind of sleep disturbance. Shift-workers are prone to have their circadian rhythm disrupted especially if they must rotate shifts. And, sleep disturbances can lead to many other problems, including public health issues when so many of us are also trying to drive while sleep-deprived!
Sleep plays a major role in all of these important human functions:
- Recovery (mental, physical and emotional)
- Energy conservation
- Neural development
- Emotional regulation
- Cardiovascular regulation
- Metabolic regulation
- Cellular toxin removal
- Human survival!!!
Experts remind us that a shortened night’s sleep (that’s less than 6 hours) is frequently associated with impaired function of our immune system, changes in important hormone levels, increases in inflammation (throughout the body), mental and emotional distress and cardiovascular disease. Putting it plainly, a lack of solid sleep will make one sick!
So, if you’re one of those people who either doesn’t prioritize getting a good night’s sleep or hasn’t mastered a technique that will enable you to manage your wake-sleep-cycle in a healthy way, here are some tips for getting the good night’s sleep you both NEED and deserve:
- Set a schedule – go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including weekends.
- Get enough physical activity during the day, 20 to 30 minutes/day. Try not to exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day and don’t sip on alcoholic drinks before bed.
- Relax before bed – try a warm bath, reading, play gentle music or find another relaxing routine.
- Create a room for sleep – avoid bright lights and loud sounds, keep the room at a comfortably cool temperature, and avoid artificial light, especially within a few hours of bedtime. Use a blue light filter on your computer or smartphone.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t get to sleep, do something else, like reading or listening to music, until you feel tired.
- See your medical provider if you have a persistent problem sleeping or if you feel unusually tired during the day. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.
- There are dozens of reasons we humans fail to get the sleep we need each night. Most of us can sustain a few nights without a completely restful period, but when our sleep is repeatedly disrupted (by illness, upset or even other people) it is important to find a solution.
- Learning to manage our sleep and to wake up refreshed and ready for the day is essential to healthy living. If that’s not how you’d describe your typical pattern, please seek out help and find a way to manage the underlying disruption or to settle your nervous system in a healthy way.