April is stress awareness month and we wanted to take a closer look at a great stress reliever that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. SLEEP. Sleep does more for our well-being than almost anything else in our lives
Sleep is extremely important to our overall health. Many important physiological processes that heal and balance the body take place while we are asleep.
Science has shown that while we sleep, the brain sorts through the information we took in during the day and strengthens the connections for important information while removing what is not needed. During sleep, the heart rate slows, respiration slows, and blood pressure drops. This slowdown takes pressure off the body, allowing it to rejuvenate. Other hormonal processes that affect our bodies take place while we are sleeping. Getting enough sleep helps the body maintain proper weight (the weight-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin are disrupted when we do not sleep well). Even after we become adults, our body produces growth hormones to repair any damage in our body from the stress of daily life. Without proper sleep, our body does not reap the benefits of this process.
Getting enough sleep also positively affects our relationships and mental state. People who are tired all the time are more prone to depression and irritability. Their focus also suffers and usually leads to poor performance at work. When we get enough quality sleep, we feel better and this reflects on the rest of our lives.
So what can you do to get more quality sleep?
The first thing is to get on a regular sleep schedule. The body has an internal clock and thrives on routine(eating, sleeping, working) at about the same time each day. Going to bed early enough that we enter deep sleep before midnight is also extremely beneficial, so get in bed by 10:30 p.m. at the latest.
Physical exercise during the day is a great way to support a healthy sleep cycle. Just make sure that you’re not exercising within two hours of when you want to go to sleep. Refrain from, or limit, caffeine and try not to go to bed either very hungry or very full. Create a ritual before bed that helps you wind down—maybe a shower or some stretching. Also limit your technology time before bed. The brightness of the screens and movement keep our brain engaged and makes it hard to fall asleep. If racing thoughts are what keep you up at night, sometimes a notebook comes in handy. Jot down the thoughts that seem to be persisting so that you can revisit them tomorrow.
If we spend eight hours a night sleeping, it means we spend one-third of our life asleep. The quality of our sleep inevitably impacts the rest of our lives. If you struggle with insomnia, or do not feel you wake up refreshed, take some time to investigate the circumstances surrounding your sleep. If need be, you may have to reach out to a professional for some assistance. More quality sleep will make all of you feel amazing and ready for another day.