How Important Import is Sleep?
Sleep, the resting of the body and the mind. All living creatures must rest at some point, otherwise, they suffer. As a species, we have been fascinated by sleep for as long as we have been alive. Consider the words of the poet William Blake: “Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the Evening. Sleep in the night.” Despite our musings on sleep, most of us do not get the rest we want or need.
According to a Gallup poll from 2013, 40% of Americans got six hours of sleep or less. Among these Americans, 14% reported getting only five hours of sleep or less. This is far less than what your body needs. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults 18 and over should sleep for 7-9 hours. This number only increases for teenagers and young children. Despite the old adage “I’ll rest when I’m dead.” Sleep is crucial to maintaining physical and emotional health.
Benefits of Getting Enough Sleep
Sleeping is like you recharging your phone or computer. They perform better at full charge and so do you. Getting a full night’s sleep has many benefits and protects against many health issues. One of the biggest benefits of getting enough sleep is for your physical health. A newsletter from the National Institute of Health states that getting enough sleep boosts the effectiveness of vaccinations.
Sufficient rest also has many mental and emotional benefits. The same newsletter states that lack of sleep impairs your ability to solve complex problems. (This could explain why college students have a hard time with classes) Also, lack of sleep affects your mood. You ever notice how when you don’t sleep that you have a hard time focusing, and you’re irritable? Getting more sleep will fix this.
So, now you know why you should get more sleep. But you may still think that it’s not possible. You’ve got an assignment due or a work project, or you’re just stressed out. Fortunately, here are some tips to help maximize your sleep time.
Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Rest
1. Turning Off Electronics
Human beings have become addicted to smartphones and technology. This is affecting their sleep. A study published in 2016 shows that the light from phone and computer screens suppresses melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone in the brain that induces sleep.
If you think this may be a cause of your lack of sleep, try this: Shut off all electronics in your house at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Also, don’t have any bright lights on either. Instead, try just sitting and relaxing. Maybe even start reading before bed.
2. Getting to Bed Earlier
This tip is basically a common sense point. If you’re getting to bed late, then obviously you won’t get as much sleep. If you have a standard 9-5 job, or a regular class schedule, start analyzing your times. Look at things like your commute, prep time, and typical wake-up call. Once you get your wake-up time, then go back 7-9 hours, and that should be your bedtime.
For example, say you have a class at 8 am every day except Friday. It takes you an hour to wake up, eat, get dressed, and be ready to go. It also takes you 20 minutes to get to your classroom. So, you would need to wake up by 6:40 if not before to make it on time. This means that you would need to go to sleep by 11:40 PM just to get the minimum 7 hours.
3. Using Relaxing Exercises or Sleep Medication
The previously mentioned NIH newsletter shows that relaxation techniques i.e. deep breathing exercises, autogenic training, and so on, can improve sleep and reduce insomnia. Insomnia is a condition that makes it extremely difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
If you want to try deep breathing, here is a simple exercise from Dr. Andrew Weil: Inhale through your nose for a mental count of for, hold your breath for a count of seven, exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of eight, repeat three to four times.
Sleep medication can be helpful, however, the effects are not guaranteed. You should always consult with your doctor before taking any sleep medication. If you do find that medication will help, one of the most non-invasive things you can take is melatonin supplements. As stated before, melatonin is a hormone that induces sleep. Boosting melatonin levels in your body may help you fall asleep more easily.
Conclusion: Catching Your 40 Winks
As the great playwright, William Shakespeare said: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Getting enough sleep is essential to your physical, mental and emotional health. Remember, to better help others, you must first help yourself. How can you excel in school or at work if you’re so tired you can’t focus?
Hopefully, these tips will enable you to start getting the rest you need. Sometimes all it takes is a simple adjustment for your quality of life to improve. Until next time, sleep well.