Sleep: It Does the Body Good
Whenever I hit those difficult moments in life that leave me short on sleep – that’s when I truly appreciate how much good sleep is such a blessing. Life’s many challenges, like a sick family member that keeps you up all night, can leave you wondering if you even have your shoes on the right feet for the next day.
Some people rarely get good quality sleep. One night leaves me unsettled, unorganized, crabby and just plain "off." Studies have shown that people who multiply many sleepless nights over time face not only the short-term effects I mentioned, but long-term consequences as well, including increased risks for metabolic syndrome and heart conditions. If you're not getting good rest, you can weaken your immune system, putting yourself at risk for other diseases.
Quantity and quality of sleep go hand-in-hand with the quality of your life. Most experts agree that people generally do best with 7 – 9 hours of sleep. Healthy sleep improve memory, problem solving, creativity and mood.
Here are some reminders that can help you establish a better sleeping schedule:
- Figure out how much sleep is best for you and allows you to function best. If you're wide awake and pretty energetic all day, you're doing good.
- Establish a pattern of going to bed at a certain time each night and waking at the same time every morning, including weekends. Your body needs routine.
- Avoid large meals in the evening. Digestion takes a lot of work, so try to stop eating at least three hours prior to bedtime.
- Set the mood with these ideas:
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool
- Avoid afternoon caffeine
- Avoid alcohol
- Get plenty of exercise – at least 30 minutes per day
- Keep mentally stimulated during the day
- Reduce stress. The biggest thief in our quality of life is stress, and you can cut it down:
- Avoid using electronics about an hour before bedtime. All devices suppress the release of melatonin, which triggers sleep when you turn off the lights.
- Develop a bedtime routine to help de-stress. Whether it's deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery, prayer, reading the Bible or writing in a journal. These tools can help clear the clutter in your brain and reset it for a deep sleep.
- White noise can help you sleep. You might try listening to very soft classical music, too.
- Perform light stretching nightly.
- Spend time outdoors as often as you can. Using a “happy light” during our winter months can help reset our body clocks as well. Aim for at least 20 minutes of daylight every day.
Good sleep is a blessing. It’s important we give this important part of our 24-hour days the priority we deserve. A good night’s sleep can make all the difference.