National Sleep Awareness Week

by Sara White

Source: Mobi Health News

This week is dedicated to building more awareness on one of my favorite activities – sleeping! That’s right, it’s National Sleep Awareness Week, and if you’re like me and still recovering from losing an hour of sleep to daylight savings, then keep reading to learn how you can rest up. But besides the time change, let’s be real, between busy workweeks, stress, caffeine, and constant exposure to blue light, catching those zzz’s at the end of the day doesn’t always come easy. In fact, according to the CDC, 35% of adults get less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, with the Sleep Association reporting that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder. Insomnia ranks at the top of the list as the most common sleep disorder and around 30% of adults report having short-term insomnia, with 10% reportedly having chronic insomnia. And, when it comes to sleep deprivation, 37% of 20-39 year old, and 40% of 40-50-year-old, report experiencing short sleep duration.

Whether it be cultural or workplace stigma, sleep has often taken a backseat to the incessant demands of a society that stereotypically associates rest with weakness. Yet, sleep is one of the most vital things our body needs to function. Luckily, Mintel reports that consumers are making a greater investment in their health and wellbeing, predicting that 2020 “may be the year of redefining sleep health.” Consumers have made a shift in how they view sleep, now deeming it as the “foundation of self-care and healthy living.”

And they’re certainly right because when your body doesn’t get enough rest,  especially on a consistent basis, there’s a myriad of negative effects it has on your overall health and wellbeing, including:

  • A Weakened Immune System

Believe it or not, but not getting enough sleep actually means you’re more likely to get sick. Sleep deprivation weakens the body’s defense against viruses, and just one night of poor rest has been shown to lower the body’s natural killer cells by almost 70%, according to Dr. Matthew Walker. In a time where COVID-19 concerns are rampant, sleep may be one of the best gifts you can give to your immune system.

  • It Affects your Attention and Concentration

Lack of sleep means you’re most likely not on your A-game the next day. Beyond feelings of grogginess, sleep deprivation affects your problem-solving skills and executive functioning, which may lead to difficulty concentrating, completing tasks and focusing…something your boss may not exactly be happy with.

  • Memory:

Sleep is vital to the memory process. It’s the time when the brain forms connections, helping us to retain and recall information, and is when our short-term memories transform into long-term memories. Studies have shown that sleeping after learning new material helps consolidate memories more effectively and is “most beneficial for recall,” so hey, maybe that mid-day nap isn’t such a bad idea after all.

  • Mood Changes:

The phrase “waking up on the wrong side of the bed” really may just be code for not getting enough sleep. We’ve all experienced the irritable, quick-tempered mood swings we graciously bestow on people when we didn’t quite get good REM the night before (sorry mom). It’s not hard to figure out that sleep and mood are closely related, but on a more chronic basis, sleeplessness is associate with anxiety disorders and depression. In fact, the Sleep Health Foundation reports that people suffering from insomnia are four times likelier to have depression than the general population and were twenty times more likely to develop panic disorder.

  • It Affects your Metabolism and May Lead to Weight Gain

Poor sleep also throws your body’s chemicals off-balance, lowering your leptin levels, which signal hunger and fullness, and increasing ghrelin, an appetite stimulant. This may have you overindulging without even realizing it. Max Lugavere, author of NYT bestseller Genius Foods, also states that “With one night of poor sleep, you temporarily become metabolically obese the next day (in terms of how insulin resistant you are).” Chronic sleeplessness has also been associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

OK got it, but sometimes going to sleep is easier said than done:

As someone who’s suffered from insomnia for many years, trying to fall asleep feels daunting. For me, attempts to figure out a ‘sleep routine’ have developed much like my cooking skills – unsuccessful and often missing a key ingredient. But, after many trial and errors, I’ve finally mastered a few tips that I find actually help:

  • Blue Light Glasses

Have you ever worn non-prescription glasses just because you like the look of them? Then blue light glasses are here to save the day. We spend the majority of our days looking at screens – whether it be during work, texting, scrolling through social media or ending your day with a Netflix binge, blue light exposure is one of the biggest culprits as to what keeps us up at night. Not only does it create eye strain and irritation, but the National Sleep Foundation also warns that blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, making it take longer for you to fall asleep. Investing in some blue light glasses will block the blue light and may just do the trick to regulate your circadian rhythm. You can also set your iPhone / Mac to automatically turn on “night shift” to reduce the amount of blue light that’s emitted.

  • To that note, Turn Off Netflix and Read a Book!

Committing to limit the amount of time you get to watch your favorite show after work may seem tough, but it’ll give your brain the chance to wind down and again, will limit your blue light exposure. Instead, opt for reading a book before bed. Reading helps relax our bodies and calms our mind, bringing us into a state of comfort – you’ll be sleeping in no time!

  • Exercise

For me, this one is tough to be consistent with (I’m amazed by people who can work out after work). But, when I do go to the gym, I find it really helps me fall asleep. In fact, research has shown that exercise promotes more sound and restful sleep, and can even help prolong the time spent in deep sleep, which is the most restorative sleeping state.

  • Take a Warm Shower or Bath

Even though we may take showers to wake us up, studies have shown that taking a warm shower or bath (that’s not too hot) will actually help us fall asleep. This is because the warmth helps regulate our body temperature, causing it to cool down more quickly afterward, which helps signal to our body that it’s time for bed.

  • Lavender Oil:

Lavender has long been deemed an anxiolytic due to its relaxing effects on our mind and body, with studies revealing it may increase the time spent in slow-wave sleep. Spray or roll lavender on your pillow, under your nose, or use it in an essential oil diffuser to reap its benefits.

  • Weighted Blanket:

Though this seems to be the latest “sleep fad,” weighted blankets have long been used as a tool to relieve anxiety and promote sleep. The concept is that the weight mimics “Deep Touch Pressure” which stimulates the release of serotonin and may also reduce restlessness at night. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about these, while I’ve certainly gotten good sleep when I use one, I’m still trying to figure out if I enjoy being held down by 20 pounds of fluff at night.

  • White or Pink Noise:

This one for me is a must. Whether it be from my fan or sound machine, I’ve found that having background noise definitely helps me fall asleep better and feel more at ease, particularly because it masks the environmental noises caused by city-living!

  • Sleep Aids:

I try to avoid taking anything as much as I can, but sometimes a night of restlessness calls for it. I’ve found that either drinking a cup of Sleepytime Tea Extra, made with a blend of chamomile, spearmint, valerian, and soothing herbs, taking natural Rescue Remedy Sleep liquid melts, or taking a small dose of melatonin helps.

  • Meditation

Meditation is a great way to settle your mind and get yourself ready for sleep. While meditating is different for everyone, I’ve found that using guiding apps like Headspace and Calm can really help me feel relaxed and fall asleep in no time.

Sweet Dreams!

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