Last week I talked about why Sleep is on my brain…and how it seems to surprise us every night. Well, life is following suit and my body has since entered a phase of pregnancy where I wake up every hour, on the hour, after either 1 or 3 AM. It never begins at 2 AM, because why? It’s whack. So yeah, I’m trying to sleep and getting less of it. Annoying, but I know this phase will end. I never sleep so well (hard/thoroughly) as when I have a newborn. Then my problem is just not getting enough of it, but hopefully changing some habits will help me when the time comes!
Now it’s time to tackle some sleep questions.
Why is sleep important? Besides helping you avoid yawning through all of your conversations…
- Your body and mind recharge through sleep. In the brain, new pathways are formed when we sleep. Sleep also helps us remember things better, think faster and more clearly. What parent doesn’t need that!? As far as our bodies, “Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility” (NIH). Basically sleep keeps you healthier.
- Sleep keeps you from getting sick. “Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections” (NIH). I know that this year has been like living in a petri-dish (so. much. sickness.) and if enough sleep can prevent another year like this, I say we all jump on board!
- Sleep helps you feel hunger appropriately and decreases your risk for obesity. “Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested”(NIH). You’re telling me that staying in shape can be made easier by catching more ZZZs? That’s definitely easier than another mile on the treadmill!
- You feel more like YOU when you sleep enough. (Source: years of human interaction). Is there much worse (on a regular basis) than being constantly irritable, angry, and feeling like you’re about to fall behind everything that needs to be done, but you just can’t do life? I don’t think so. I like being me and being positive! Sleep helps us with that. Plus, you won’t be sleep walking through Manhattan like this young lady…please be careful, dearest photo model.
So, am I getting enough sleep?
Ask yourself these questions from Mental Health America:
- Am I often tired?
- Am I using caffeine to get through the day?
- Do I sleep well?
- Do I wake up feeling refreshed?
- Do I get drowsy while driving or watching TV?
- I love this question from the National Sleep Foundation: Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear? Figure out what works for you.
- The Mayo Clinic did a study that noted women who suffered from fatigue also had lower sex drives. Do you feel a significant decrease in your libido?
- Is anything else within your mental or physical state feeling significantly different? Many other studies cite that performance, judgement and depression can all have links to sleep deprivation.
If you answered yes to any of these, you might not be getting enough sleep. Eight hours is the promoted ideal, but some people need more and others need less. Check out this chart to see what’s recommended and what’s acceptable. Please consult your doctor for any concerns you may have.
If you are not happy with the amount of sleep you’re getting, try and set an earlier bedtime by 30 minute increments for a week at a time to see if it can help you feel more “productive, healthy and happy”.
How do I fall asleep easier and sleep better?
- Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends (CDC). [For weekends], limit the difference [of wake/sleep times] to no more than about an hour. Staying up late and sleeping in late on weekends can disrupt your body clock’s sleep–wake rhythm. For children, have a set bedtime and a bedtime routine. Don’t use the child’s bedroom for timeouts or punishment (NIH). Shift-workers: please see these tips.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable (and attractive!) and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music. Remove all TVs, computers, and other “gadgets” from the bedroom (CDC). Also, if you can’t fall asleep after 15 minutes you can try some soothing music, but if you remain alert experts recommend getting up until you feel more tired (Mental Health America).
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature (CDC).
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime (CDC).
- Avoid tobacco/nicotine (CDC).
- Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night (CDC).
- De-stress yourself. Relax by taking a hot bath, meditating or envisioning a soothing scene while lying in bed. Turn off daytime worries by finishing any next-day preparations about an hour before bed (Mental Health America).
- Spend time outside every day when possible (NIH).
Are your sleep issues beyond Netflix addiction or kids keeping you awake?
The CDC says to keep a sleep diary for 10 days before discussing your problems with your doctor, including “when you:
- Go to bed
- Fall asleep
- Wake up
- Get out of bed
- Take naps
- Drink alcohol
- Consume caffeine-containing beverages
If you have symptoms of a sleep disorder, such as snoring or being very sleepy during the day after a full night’s sleep, make sure to tell your doctor.”
Next week, I’ll be wrapping up this sleep series with a post on how to craft your own nighttime routine (much like you do, or did, with your babies!) to make bedtime even better. I’m craving my bedsheets just thinking about it. What’s the thing keeping you from sleeping enough? I’d love to know in the comments!