Did you know that the average person spends up to 26 years asleep? Although it’s one of the most important things we’ll do, many of us seem to struggle with getting good quality rest consistently. From late nights out and inconsistent sleep schedules (for the parents or shift workers) to screen time.
Many of us, myself included, may think that the quantity of sleep matters more than the quality. However, over time through experience and brilliant podcasts like the Sleep episode of the Huberman lab series featuring Matt Walker, we learn that to achieve true restorative sleep, we need to focus on both quality and quantity.
Sleep vs. Physical Health
Sleep, specifically poor sleep, affects your physical health in ways you may not know at first. When we lack a sufficient amount of good quality sleep, we experience sluggish tiredness, making it difficult to focus.
Poor sleep affects blood pressure and growth hormone production and weakens the immune system.
According to sleep expert Dr Michael Twery for News In Health, it also affects cardiovascular health and appetite, which could lead to either weight gain or loss and bodily hormonal function.
Sleep vs. Mental and Emotional Health
I’m sure you’ve all noticed that the day after a night of terrible sleep, you may be more emotionally sensitive, your fuse may seem shorter, and things bug you more easily. This is because just as it affects our physical health, so does our mental and emotional states.
Furthermore, it disrupts hormones, increasing susceptibility to anxiety, emotional stress, and heightened frustration.
Quality sleep fortifies us against daily emotional and mental pressures by stabilizing hormones and reducing anxiety, stress, and frustration.
With that said, for my fellow insomniacs and those who simply may struggle to get consistently good rest, all hope is not lost.
From lifestyle habits to supplements, here are some tools and tricks you could use daily to help get the most peaceful nights of sleep you’ve ever had.
Daily Healthy Sleep Habits:
● Limit screen time at night
Similarly to how the morning sun alerts the brain that it’s time to wake up, the light from our devices tricks the brain into thinking that it’s daytime and, therefore, time to be awake.
Limiting screen time an hour before bed can yield positive sleep results, allowing the mind to relax.
● Dim the lights in your home
Like phone and daylight effects, bright home lights can alert your mind. Create a soothing atmosphere with soft, dim lighting. So light some candles and give yourself some me time.
● Limit your caffeine intake to before noon
In the Huberman podcast linked above, Dr. Walker states that you should count backward from your bedtime about 8-10 hours to understand when your last caffeine intake should be; for most of us, that would be around midday.
● Try out some yoga
Yoga can help you sleep better. Calming your mind and relaxing your body reduces stress and anxiety that can keep you awake at night. The gentle stretches and deep breathing in yoga prepare your body for rest, making it easier to fall asleep and enjoy a peaceful night’s rest. Regular practice of yoga can lead to improved sleep quality over time.
● NSDR meditation
A more recent popular meditation style is NSDR, or non-sleep deep rest. This entails listening to a set of protocols that function similarly to meditation. This is not only great to help prepare for bedtime but is also immensely helpful as a midday reset to bring calm to an anxious or restless mind.
● Supplements such as Gaba, 5-htp and melatonin
Consulting a doctor is crucial before supplement use. But, taking Gaba, a calming neurotransmitter, can aid in pre-sleep relaxation.
5-HTP and melatonin are regarded in the same class and help regulate your sleep-wake cycle
● See your doctor / Therapist
For some of us, the reason for poor sleep could be because of mental health struggles. If you’re grappling with anxiety or depression, seek help from a medical professional to tackle your sleep problems for improved well-being.
Quality sleep is essential for our health and well-being, enabling peak performance in our daily lives. Understanding what works best for our minds and bodies is the best gift we could ever give ourselves.