Are you familiar with that feeling of chaos in the middle of a busy week or a few days before a deadline? When you have fifty-something open tabs that you can’t close because they’re all somehow important? Or how when your computer gets put on hibernate instead of being shut down on a nightly basis so you don’t lose your precious work?
We treat ourselves the same way. We don’t let our bodies properly shut down by neglecting to give it at least seven hours of good, restful sleep. Computers are made to withstand this treatment – humans are not. The human body needs an ample and consistent sleep schedule to maintain both good mental and physical health. But getting the required amount of sleep every night is easier said than done.
Whether you’re a student pulling all-nighters, a young professional struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance, or a mother trying to navigate parenthood, the importance of getting a good night’s sleep is always overlooked. It’s not just about waking up groggy and tired; lack of sleep and poor sleeping habits can affect the body in ways that we might not expect. Let’s explore.
Sleep and Emotional Well-being
Losing sleep makes you angrier, especially in frustrating situations. There are multiple studies that indicate a link between poor sleep and reduced cortex functionality. The cortex is a part of the brain that is associated with self-control. Research by Iowa State University provided evidence that sleep loss causes anger and affects a person’s ability to feel empathy.
This could be dangerous for people like first responders and healthcare workers, who are more vulnerable due to working long shifts and the stressful nature of their job. Studies have also shown that lack of deep sleep can trigger anxiety. Sleeping less encourages intrusive and repetitive thoughts to fester, thereby worsening anxiety and depression.
Sleep and Physical Health
Healthy sleep patterns can reduce the risk of heart failure by almost half. Irregular sleep and wake schedules lead to a higher risk for high cholesterol, hypertension, and high blood sugar. Even worse, lack of sleep heightens your desire to eat junk food. A study has shown that difficulty falling asleep can lead to consumption of larger food portions as well.
How to Fix Your Sleep
Sometimes, we can’t help our state of sleeplessness. While busy schedules may be a factor, sleep disorders can also play a part. There’s no one solution to fix sleep disorders, but adopting healthy habits can greatly improve the quality of our sleep.
SLEEP-FIX 1: Load up on the vitamin D.
Vitamin D can improve sleep quality, raise sleep duration, and help you fall asleep faster. You can get vitamin D naturally by spending time in the sun or consuming vitamin D-rich food such as fatty fish and seafood. Vitamin D supplements work just as well.
SLEEP-FIX 2: Limit blue-light exposure.
Blue light emitted from electronic devices contributes to sleep dysfunction by reducing melatonin production. Decreasing your exposure to blue light – whether by not using phones or computers before sleep or with the use of blue wavelength-blocking glasses – has been shown to improve sleep.
SLEEP-FIX 3: Get some exercise.
Contrary to popular belief, exercising at night does not affect sleep. In fact, exercise can improve sleep quality – and you don’t need vigorous physical activity for it to work. Find a moderate exercise routine that’s within the range of your abilities.
SLEEP-FIX 4: Sleep early.
Try to maintain a consistent and early sleeping schedule. Studies have shown that going to bed late makes you sleepier and makes self-regulation harder, regardless of how much sleep you actually get.
SLEEP-FIX 5: Be mindful of what you consume.
Avoid having heavy food within a couple of hours of going to bed – but don’t go hungry either! Be cautious with stimulants such as nicotine or caffeine as they can take hours to wear off and negatively impact your sleep quality.