Most of us know, on some level, that sleep is important, but many of us don’t realize how closely linked sleep is to health.
In this article, we want to clear up some misconceptions about these two closely linked topics, and offer some crucial tips, so that you can learn to maximize your sleep health.
Sleep is closely linked to wellness for everyone, but this is especially true when you have a chronic illness. For example, almost anyone that deals with chronic pain likely experiences feeling worse if they miss sleep, and once your sleep health starts to slip it can snowball. A bad day leads to a bad night’s sleep which leads to an even worse day after.
The best practice is to make healthy sleep a priority every day. That can be challenging given all the demands on our attention, but it’s important to make time to wind down and get a good, deep night’s sleep.
Let’s learn a little more about sleep and health.
Some facts about sleep and health
According to the Centers for Disease Control, adults need at least 7 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and well-being.
Unfortunately, a lot of us aren’t sleeping that much. The CDC estimates that about 35% of adults don’t get that 7+ hours, most of the time. That figure is about the same across genders. It does vary somewhat by age and race. For example, almost 40% of people ages 45 to 54 are not getting enough sleep.
And while we’re focusing this article on adults, it’s worth taking a moment to note that American adolescents are struggling even more to achieve optimal sleep health. The CDC reports that about two-thirds of teenagers get less than the 8 to 10 hours of sleep they need each night. Not only are these developmental years vital to our lifelong wellness, but the facts suggest that many of us are learning bad sleep health habits, right from the start of adulthood.
Somewhere between 10% and one-third of adult Americans suffer from chronic insomnia. Numerous different things can change our sleep patterns for the worse, including health conditions like chronic pain and illness, PMS, even heartburn. Stress, anxiety, depression and other disruptions of our mental health also affect our sleep, and in turn getting healthy sleep can help support better mental health.
Sleep hygiene: Promoting optimal sleep health
Fortunately, there’s some steps everyone can take to improve their sleep health. This practice is known as maintaining good “sleep hygiene.”
If you think about it, this term makes a lot of sense. Hygiene, keeping our bodies clean, helps maintain good health. And it’s something we practice all the time, not just when we feel sick. We all know that good hygiene is something we need to make time for each day. The habits that help maintain healthy sleep are much the same. If we do them every day, we’ll start to reap the benefits.
Tips for getting the most out of every night
Here’s some tips for practicing healthier sleep hygiene:
- Create a comfortable, welcoming and relaxing atmosphere in your bedroom. Do your best to block out light sources and reduce distracting noises.
- Set a consistent bedtime, and a consistent time for waking up. And while we know you might love the idea of staying up late and sleeping in on weekends and vacations, consistency is key. The better you maintain this schedule the better your overall sleep health will be.
- Remove distracting devices and glowing screens from your bedroom. That means TVs, computers, smartphones, laptops, you name it.
- It can also be a good idea to further reduce your exposure to blue light, since this can harm your body's natural sleep rhythm. If you do need to be on your devices at night, many computers and laptops now support filters which reduce the amount of blue light emitted.
- Avoid caffeine, big meals, or anything that upsets your stomach before bed.
- Make sure to get exercise! Exercise promotes better sleep, and the good news is you can do any kind you like. Doctors believe you can see the sleep-promoting benefits of exercise with as little as 30 minutes a day, as long as it increases your heart rate and promotes the release of endorphins and other beneficial brain chemicals.
- Try CBD! While CBD isn’t a cure or treatment for any health condition, including insomnia, there is some evidence that CBD might promote deeper, more restful sleep. That’s likely because of CBD’s effect on the endocannabinoid system, which helps many of our bodies' other systems (including sleep) stay in balance.
Make healthy sleep a priority
In the extraordinary TED Talk above, scientist Matt Walker explains how sleep health influences everything from sexual health to aging. The solution he proposes? Make sleep a priority in our lives.
A lot of us are seeking more balanced lives by trying to devote time to both work and play. Many of us have made self-care a vital part of our lives too, pampering ourselves inside and out when we need it most. Too often though, sleep gets overlooked as a part of our personal care routine. It’s easy to do, when there’s always one more show, one more cute cat video, one more pin to save.
When you make sleep a priority, you’ll quickly discover that it has so many rewards. These include feeling more rested, having more energy and focus, and enjoying the time you are awake more.
At Overcome Every Day, our goal is to offer hope, direction and inspiration when you need it most. We hope you’ll find all three in this article, and be inspired to make changes in your habits. Sleep health matters, and you’ll feel better all through your life when you put sleep first, every night.