Sleep. We hear it’s good for us, but why do the majority of us get too little of it or the sleep we do get just feels crummy. Unfortunately, continual poor sleep habits can lead to potential health problems, poor performance, lack of focus, and decreased memory function. Benefits of sleep that we may not be aware of are its positive relationship with exercise. With just a little bit more effort, awareness, and prioritization, you might be a step or two away from catching a few more zzz’s.
Researchers are not completely sure why we sleep, but hundreds of studies have shown the negative and positive effects that sleep has on our body. Some key benefits of sleep are improved mood, alertness, concentration, clarity, energy, and memory retention. Sleep can also affect how our body responds to internal threats from bacteria, viruses, and other invaders. When it comes to exercise, optimal sleep can improve your ability to train harder, heal your body’s tissue faster, and reduce the likelihood of injury. This is why many professional athletes sleep up to 13 hours a day!
What’s necessary for me to have good quality sleep? There are three categories for optimal sleep:
- Quality- how well you sleep through the night (waking up to go to the bathroom, difficulty going to sleep, restlessness during the period of sleep)
- Quantity- On average, adults should be sleeping between 7-9 hours a day.
- Timing- Chronotype (morning lark or night owl). Factors like jobs and childcare can throw one’s natural preference off.
As most of us would agree that sleep is important, there are many factors that are out of our control when it comes to acquiring good quality sleep (i.e. job demands, caring for a baby, sleep disorders, stress, etc.). What we can do is prioritize and practice strategies to manage the factors that we have control over.
Here are some tips that can help in snagging those extra zzz’s:
- Define your sleep time and stick to it as best you can- “I’m going to bed every night by no later than 10:30pm.”
- Minimize light in the room and from e-devices 30 minutes before sleeping.
- Write a to-do list to avoid thinking of the following day’s tasks.
- Establish relaxing habits before bed- take a warm shower, do breathing exercises, perform gentle stretches, read a ‘real’ book in low light)
- Keep the room as dark as possible when sleeping.
- Soft white noise can be beneficial for improving stages of deeper sleep.
- If sleep was a challenge, take a cat nap (around 20 minutes) between 1-4pm.
Just like exercise, it requires prioritizing your sleep, addressing bad behaviors, and implementing good pre-sleep habits. If you have other helpful tips for sleeping, please share in the comments below!