Having healthy sleep habits is the pillar upon which health, wellness and productivity are built. Your daily routine, and especially your routine before bed impacts the quality of your sleep more than you think. In turn, the quality of your sleep affects more of your life than you expect. Your sleep habits can either contribute to creating a happy, vibrant life or they can turn you into an exhausted zombie. Most people have heard this at least once. But many still wonder what the big deal really is.
The Dangers Of Ignoring Healthy Sleep Habits
Sleep influences a multitude of factors within your life. Anything from mental impairments to accidents can be caused by a lack of sleep. One study showed this by observing young adults who slept between four to six hours a night for two weeks. Participants showed signs of decreased mental function and alertness. In addition to that, often they were not even aware of their decreased cognitive function.
Not maintaining healthy sleep habits can also result in all sorts of health issues. According to Lisa Shives, MD, a sleep specialist at Northshore Sleep Medicine, in Evanston, Ill., and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, these can include lowered immune system response, impaired cognitive function, cardiovascular dysfunction and irregularities in hormones that control appetite.
The director of the Sleep Disorders Center and professor of neurology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago is of the same opinion. Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD, states that healthy sleep habits play a vital role in maintaining a healthy body and mind. Furthermore, sleep deprivation also has the ability to affect everything from changes in mood to overeating.
In other words, if you are sleep deprived, your ability to function efficiently and productively will decrease. Moreover, you are also more likely to gain weight and get sick more often!
Here is a basic list of 6 side-effects of not following healthy sleeping habits:
- Exhaustion and general lack of energy
- Depression, anxiety or irritability
- Memory related problems, shorter attention span and decreased learning capability
- Delayed reactions and reflexes
- A limited ability to multitask
In the end, most research concludes that correcting sleep patterns and introducing healthy sleep habits can lower the risk of experiencing the conditions mentioned above.
A few, simple adjustments may be all that stand between you and your best life. From scheduling time to worry to simply breathing, here are seven healthy sleep habits you can start implementing today.
1. Toss The Tech
This is perhaps one of the biggest, most well-known sleep tips. For years, sleep doctors have been reccomending that you give your tech a rest before bed – and for good reason! The blue light that electronic screens emmit makes sleep harder to achieve by messing with your melatonin production. Additionally, it can also increase stress and anxiety, by introducing the uncomfortable cycle of ruminating over unpleasant news, according to Dr. Chan.
Furthermore, he notes that the websites and apps on which you consume information are designed to keep you engaged. Created with the intention of capturing as much of your time as possible, the internet is not a great place to spend your time before bed.
In order to defend your treasured shut-eye, turn all your devices off at least half an hour before bed. If you really want to whip your sleep routine into shape, try switching off an hour or two before bed.
2. Schedule Worry Time
Scheduling time to relax or meet up with friends is important to maintain balance in your life. In the same way, it is important to schedule time for your worries. Set aside anywhere between fifteen minutes to half an hour a day, and spend that time journaling. Keeping the time of day consistent is key. Write down anything that is weighing on your mind. As you do that, start thinking of solutions or actions you can take to deal with each issue. Write these down, and have at least one action to match every worry.
That way, you do not have to keep a mental list of problems to sort out. Going through the issues of the day will lessen the amount of things running races in your mind when your head hits the pillow.
3. Make A Gratitude List
Now that you have rid your mind of worries, replace the empty spaces with positive thoughts: Be grateful! Grateful thoughts encourage better sleep.
Psychologists Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons supported this idea with their seminal research. In this study, participants were asked to make a list of things that they are grateful for every night before sleep. After only three weeks, participants recorded waking up feeling more refreshed, and an increase in average sleep time.
Spend five minutes before bed every day writing down between what you are grateful for. Take a moment to really observe the feelings of gratitude that each item on your list evokes. By being more aware of all the good in your life, you will be able to keep pessimism and worry at bay. As a result, you will nod off faster, sleep longer and wake feeling revitalized.
4. The 4-7-8 Breathing Method
Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 breathing technique is great for sleep. This breathing pattern helps slow your heart rate. Having a slow, steady heart rate is a requirement that needs to be met before falling asleep. In order to achieve this, breath in for four counts, hold for seven, and then blow out for eight counts. Repeat this five to seven times at the very least, and you should start feeling relaxed and sleepy.
5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
One common theme found withing many sleep habits is their focus on quieting the mind. This habit is no different. As you lie in bed, start relaxing all your muscles. Begining at your toes, focus on feeling the tension release from each muscle. Progressing upwards one by one, continue until you reach the very tip of your head. Not only will you feel like you are floating on clouds, this exercise also draws your attention away from your thoughts. As you go through the steps, you will find your stress melting away as your mind gradually slows own. This is such an easy sleep habit to introduce that you can literally do it lying down with your eyes closed!
6. Have A Consistent Sleep Schedule
The king of all sleep habits, a consistent bedtime is the foundation upon which quality sleep is built. Creating and maintaining a regular sleep schedule is one of the first things that sleep doctors reccomend. By going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, you will slowly start conditioning your body. By sticking to a routine, your body will begin to expect sleep at certain times. As a result, you will likely to observe the time it takes you to fall asleep decreasing gradually.
Aside from keeping you alert, healthy sleep habits also keep you healthier. Whether you want to become a better student or a more productive employee, implementing healthy sleep habits will definitely help. Even if all you are after in feeling more awake and alive, the benefits are numerous.