How Can I Get Better Sleep?
If there’s one thing we seem to all agree upon, it’s a desire for more restful sleep! None of us seem to get enough of it. And most of us know firsthand how a lack of sleep can affect our energy, our focus, and can even impact our physical and mental health. Over time, poor sleep can have a lasting, negative effect on many facets of our life. Harvard Medical School notes these results of poor sleep over time:
- Stressed cardiovascular health: serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
- Pressure on learning and memory: sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation.
- Studies show those who slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
- Impact on metabolism and weight: chronic sleep deprivation can affect weight gain by altering the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates. It can also alter levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
- Reduced safety: sleep deprivation can cause sleep or inattention during the daytime. These lapses can lead to medical errors, air traffic mishaps, road accidents and more.
- Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also deplete energy, zapping energy to do the things you really like to do.
- Illnesses: Sleep deprivation can affect immune function, including the activity of the body's illness-fighting white blood cells.
7 Tips to Improve Your Quality of Sleep
Fortunately, there is HOPE for those who struggle with inconsistent sleep. Here are my 7 tips for more restorative sleep:
- Keep to a regular sleep schedule. Your release of hormones is tied to your wake and sleep patterns. As much as possible, stick to the same schedule, even on weekends. Your body will learn when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to sleep.
- Prepare your sleep environment. Keep it dark, quiet, and cool. Make sure there is good airflow in the room.
- Do not use tobacco or drink coffee or alcohol after 4pm. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants, and alcohol negatively affects your quality of sleep.
- Keep your bedroom your bedroom. Don’t turn it into an auxiliary television room, computer room, or workstation. Your bedroom is a place where you give your mind permission to rest, turn off, and go into “sleep” mode.
- Invest in a good quality, supportive mattress and pillow. A quality mattress that can distribute your weight and dissipate heat will make a big difference in your ability to fall, and stay, asleep.
- Turn the clock around so you can’t see it, especially if it uses blue light. Fixating on the changing time isn’t exactly going to enhance your ability to relax and fall asleep. Research has shown that exposure to blue light suppresses the production of melatonin more than any other type of light.
- Avoid stress, arguments, loud music and intense television within an hour of sleep. Take a hot bath or shower just prior to going to bed. Allow your body to physically relax. This will assist your mind and trigger its internal shutoff switch.
Getting consistent, restorative sleep can have big benefits to your social, relational, physical and mental health. Being disciplined about your approach to sleep, and following a set routine, can make a big improvement in your quality of life – another thing we can all agree upon!
Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE, recognized as a Top 10 Center for the Treatment of Depression in the U.S. Dr. Jantz is the author of 37 books and a go to media source for mental health issues and the whole person approach to overall wellness. Dr. Jantz is a sleep study expert and regularly conducts sleep analyses for his clients at The Center.