Sleep is is such an important part of life and it often gets pushed aside with the modern world’s busy schedule. When we are asleep our brain gets a chance to restore the body and to organize itself.
Have you ever noticed that you are more sleepy after an injury or a big mental challenge? That’s normal and your brain is busy doing its thing! We cycle in and out of different phases of sleep to allow our brain a chance to direct areas of healing in the body, boost the immune system, and to spend time filing and categorizing memories, new skills learned, emotions, and more that we encountered during the day.
Whether we are trying to stay healthy or fighting off bugs, sleep is an invaluable tool! One study found that even a 10–38 minute sleep disturbance increased your risk of getting a cold by 3.9 times! Another research study concluded that staying up late led to not only an increased risk of illness but also led to making bad dietary choices.
Our bodies are naturally attuned to the Earth’s day and night patterns. However, in today’s world, it can be much harder to follow that pattern due to requirements of jobs, family, the endless sources of entertainment and distraction available at all hours. We end up staying up too late and getting up too early. We can travel across time zones in the span of a day, rely on stimulants to wake us up, and then wonder why we aren’t falling asleep.
This leaves us susceptible to bugs.
To beat the bugs and get better sleep try:
Set a schedule and stick to it. Aim for 7–8 hours of sleep per night (for adults). Maybe that means you have to get into bed 30 minutes earlier than usual to allow for time to read, meditate, or relax.
Create a comforting environment. Make your bedroom an oasis for sleep. Whether that means getting a new mattress or breathable bedding. Maybe you need a noise machine to block out city noises or an air filter to clean out dust, dander, and dog hair.
Stop the stimulants! Cut off caffeine (chocolate has caffeine too) and other stimulating foods by the early afternoon to ensure they aren’t keeping you up at night.
Move it, move it! Exercising can help you fall asleep easier. When you exercise your body produces our “feel good” hormones (serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine), kind of like a reward for working out. While these hormones make us feel good, serotonin is also a precursor to melatonin which helps us to fall asleep!
Ditch the devices! Turn off all screens at least 1 hour prior to hitting the sack. Devices with lighted screens (think phones, TV, computers, iPods, etc) use a wavelength of light that stimulants our eyes and changes the way we produce a sleep hormone (melatonin). Setting a device curfew will help you get to sleep with more ease and you’ll have a more restful night.
Sleep Apps. While ditching the screens is essential, there are many apps available that will help you track your sleeping patterns. These can be run with the device in airplane mode, to stop any signals coming to the device during the night. Sleep apps can help you follow your sleep patterns which may help you make changes to your bedroom, diet, or lifestyle that help you sleep more soundly.
Quality of sleep has a direct correlation to to our daily health and overall wellness.
Sources: Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Alper CM, Janicki-Deverts D, Turner RB. Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Arch Intern Med 2009;169:62–7.
June J. Pilcher, Elizabeth S. Ott. The Relationships Between Sleep and Measures of Health and Weil-Being in College Students: A Repeated Measures Approach. Behavioral Medicine. 2010, 23(4), 170–178.
TANAKA, H., TAIRA, K., ARAKAWA, M., MASUDA, A., YAMAMOTO, Y., KOMODA, Y., KADEGARU, H. and SHIRAKAWA, S. (2002), An examination of sleep health, lifestyle and mental health in junior high school students. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 56: 235–236.