Earlier in July, we introduced a new wellness blog post series – 7 Day Challenge – which provided actionable steps to becoming a healthier you, via drinking more water. This week, our 7–Day Wellness Challenge is all about getting better sleep. Sleep plays an important role in our physical and mental health and should be a priority for us all.
If 2017 is the Year of a Healthier You, put “Get Better Sleep” at the top of the list. Start with this 7-Day Challenge (think short–term goal rather than long–term to set yourself up for success) and evaluate what worked best for you so you can create a lasting sleep schedule and routine for years to come.
Why is getting enough quality rest important for our health?
- Sleep is one of the factors that allows our brains to function properly. While we are sleeping, our brains are preparing for the next day so that we can learn and retain information as needed. Sleep allows us to make decisions, solve problems, control our emotions, control our behavior and even cope with change easier and better.
- While we are asleep, our bodies are focused on the healing and repair of our heart and blood vessels.
- Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, because sleep allows us to maintain a healthy hormone balance.
- Our immune system relies on our sleep schedule to stay healthy and a lack of sleep can prevent us from fighting off infections.
- A lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
What is sleep deficiency and how is it harmful?
Sleep deficiency is a broad concept that includes not getting enough sleep, sleeping at the wrong times, not sleeping well, or having a sleep disorder. It can mean that you are out of sync with your bodies natural sleep cycle or not getting all of the different types of sleep your body requires. It doesn’t take much loss of sleep to impair your ability to function. In fact, losing just 1–2 hours per night, over the course of several nights, is the equivalent of not sleeping at all for 1-2 days.
- Sleep deficiency causes you to be less productive. It also causes you to lose attention quicker and make more mistakes.
- You may lose minutes of your day because you are microsleeping.
- It impairs your ability to drive and has caused an estimated 100,000 car accidents each year.
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1. Eat your last full meal, 2–3 hours before bedtime.
2. Invest in a good mattress and good pillows.
3. Keep your room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.
4. Exercise first thing in the morning.
5. Invest in curtains that block out light and try to expose yourself to direct sunlight first thing in the morning.
6. It may seem obvious, but try to avoid napping during the day. Adjusting your sleep schedule so that you are getting quality rest when needed should help you avoid the mid–day slump that has you dying for a 20–minute nap.
8. Try meditation, yoga or even prayer before bedtime. These activities have been shown to slow your breathing and heart rate.
9. Write down what you are grateful for and what is bothering you before you drift off. Also, keep a journal by your bed so you can quickly jot down anything that is keeping you up, so you can deal with it tomorrow.
10. Have a light snack 45–minutes before bed. Try half a turkey sandwich, milk, yogurt or a banana.