Signs Your Sleep Habits are Hurting You & How to Tweak Them
For many silly reasons, American culture puts a hold on sleep as if it were optional and we are more prepared to keep our phones charged than our own bodies.
When we feel like our schedules are too tight, sleep is normally one of the first things to be sacrificed. Sure, we all can survive on an hour or two less here and there. But we often assume we can alter the amount of rest needed based on what we want to accomplish.
Sleep is not a luxury to bargain with.
Our bodies utilize the night hours to reset, detox and heal. Without enough quality sleep, we set ourselves up for both short and long-term damage. Some effects are not so obvious, and some are immediate (like waking up grumpy after barely getting 4 hours in).
A few effects of poor sleep:
Struggles with memory loss, concentration, fair judgment, & mental fatigue
Issues with coordination & balance
Weight loss/gain & disruptive appetite changes
Higher dependence on other substances (like caffeine & nicotine)
Increased irritability, depression, & anxiety
Faster aging (poor nail & hair health, wrinkles, & dark circles)
Longer recovery & healing time for wounds
Higher blood pressure, & higher likelihood of heart failure or cardiac disease
Accumulated toxins & a weakened immune system (likely to become sick more often)
Higher risk of developing Diabetes
More & more research is surfacing to reflect the consequences of letting sleep fall to the wayside. Many who do not get adequate sleep are also diagnosed with an accompanying disease or health issue. For those with insomnia, as many as 90% will develop another ailment due to their lack of rest.
If warm milk just doesn't cut it, give these ideas a go before seeking a prescription for some shut-eye.
1. Listen to your body's natural sleep & wake cycle.
Your personality can weigh in pretty heavily on how and when you'll get the best sleep. If you're a night owl (hoot hoot)- this can be particularly difficult to adjust to. If you force yourself to stay awake to get through one more episode of Game of Thrones, you may find yourself staring into a screen past midnight.
Try taking a week to track your natural flow of energy. If you normally go to bed at 11 pm, try getting things done before 9 pm and start preparing for bed around 9:30-10. You may realize your body is ready for bed at 10 and it's much easier to fall asleep before 11.
2. Schedule your time around what's really important.
I learned the hard way that nothing was worth losing my health. It had to come first.
Schedule your duties around what you need to function at your best. That means sleep, meals, exercise, and time with your family. These are the things that should be prioritized on your calendar, not meetings, presentations, and sub-categories of adult life.
I get that these are important, but you will be able to do more in less time if you are functioning at your best and brightest. You can't achieve what you want if you don't give your mind and body the support it needs every day.
3. Create an evening routine.
Now that you've got your natural sleepy time and schedule set up, add a little routine to keep yourself on track. It can be an hour or 30 minutes before you want to go to bed. But give yourself some quiet time where you cut off the TV, put the phone on the charger (preferably in another room), and turn the lights down a bit. You could plan a little for the next day, pick out your outfit, read a book, or journal for a bit.
The more you work on this, the faster it will become a habit for your mind and body. This will help silence the noise, reduce anxiety, and create a peaceful environment for healthy sleep.
4. Treat yourself with quality exercise & nutrition.
You didn't think you'd read through this without me mentioning food & groove, did you?
If you're having a lot of trouble falling asleep and sleeping well, the answer may be related to what you're eating and how you move. Just like you need sleep to heal, you need nutrients from your food that your body cannot produce on its own. These nutrients are used while you sleep to heal your body, improve your immune system, and prepare for the next day. Simply adding a little variety of fresh fruits and veggies every day can drastically improve your sleep cycle.
Movement is essential to rest because your body needs healthy circulation to perform at its highest. If the only movement your getting is walking to and from your car or between rooms at work, you may not be getting the physical and mental relief your body is craving. A little exercise every day will reduce stress, burn off steam, and help you fall into a deeper sleep at night. It doesn't have to be stressful cardio either! Just a 15-minute walk, swim, or yoga session at home are perfect ways to do this.
5. Mix it up (sometimes).
You probably won't read this many other places, but I believe that mixing up your cycle on purpose every now and then can be beneficial. This helps you not to feel as if you're chained to a schedule or missing out on the fun.
Plan your nights out ahead of time. If you know you want to stick to your schedule six days per week, then enjoy Saturday nights on the town or watching late-night movies without a curfew. Wake up at a decent time and give yourself a day to recalibrate. Go back to your routine that evening.
Bonus Tip: It's all about balance, baby!
Every area of your life is linked by the energy you use to navigate through them. Your body is affected by your work, habits, friends and family, diet, and common practices. When you feel a slump in one area, you will likely begin to feel it in another.
If you are at your wit's end, try writing down your daily routine, people you see every day, common conversations, sources of stress, feelings of doubt or confusion, areas you're lacking in and want to change. Look for links and patterns to figure out what may be disturbing you on a subconscious level when you're trying to stay asleep through the night.
Yoga and meditation are very powerful tools to soothe these kinds of disturbances, but it can take time and practice to see their results (& to catch up on all those missed hours!).
Give yourself time to adjust and really give this a whirl.
Your mind & body will thank you. Soon enough you'll be back at the top of your game!
Know any sleep hacks? Leave a comment below or get social & spread the word! :)