Do you feel you are getting enough sleep at night? Are you feeling well rested in the morning when you wake up?
Sleep and mental health are closely related. Being sleep deprived affects both your psychological and mental states.
Lack of sleep can also affect your physical health and make you prone to conditions such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also cause your immune system to weaken putting you at risk for illnesses and diseases.
To get a bad night’s sleep once in a while is one thing. But long term sleep deprivation can reek havoc on your mind and body.
In this article I would like to offer some ideas on how to sleep your way to better health.
Pitfalls of no sleep
Sleep deprivation can cause a number of health problems. Here are a few of those.
1. Mood changes–Lack of sleep can make you moody, irritable, and emotional. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety and depression.
2. Weight gain–With sleep deprivation, the chemicals that signal to your brain you are full, are out of wack. This can cause you to eat even when you have had enough to eat.
3. Risks of heart disease–It’s not completely clear why less sleep is detrimental to heart health, but researchers understand that sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation. The same may be true for oversleeping. (1)
4. Low sex drive–People who have lack sleep tend to have a lower sex drive.
5. Accidents–Being tired while driving can increase your risk of car accidents. I know I have driven when I was so tired I felt if I could just take a 5 minute cat nap I would be fine. But I’m too stubburn to pull over and take that 5 minutes. This doesn’t only put ourselves at risk but everyone else on the road with us. How often have we seen or heard about someone who fell asleep behind the wheel while driving. Those are sad stories.
6. Weakened immunity–Lack of sleep weakens our immune systems. This puts us at higher risk for illnesses such as the common cold or flu.
My position requires me to be on call for 24 hour periods of time. I have been known to work up to 21 hours straight with little to no downtime. Every time that has happened I could almost guarantee I would end up sick within the next week. It just lowers my immune system doing that. You can imagine I don’t care to be on call too often. But that’s the line of work I chose. So it’s all on me.
Those are just some of the negative effects lack of sleep can have on our bodies. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to get a better nights sleep.
Promoting a better nights sleep naturally
How many hours of sleep does a person need? While this number can vary a bit. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. I personally do pretty well with anything over 6, but 7 is my ideal.
A good nights sleep starts before you crawl between those sheets. What you do before bed is just as important. For example, if you are watching a dramatic heart racing movie just prior to going to bed, it’s no doubt going to be more challenging to fall asleep.
First of all, if you are watching tv (we’ll refer to watching tv as screen time as it works the same with being on your computer/phone/tablet etc.) is going to get you to bed later, cutting into your sleep time.
Sometimes I will be watching tv in the livingroom and end up falling asleep right there. This is not healthy for a couple reasons. First off, the sleep I’m getting is not good sleep. With the tv playing in the background my neurons and electrical activity in the brain are still working overtime. Second, I wake up when the show is over and have to go to bed. Well, my brain thinks I just took a power nap and now I find it difficult to fall back to sleep. I try not to do that anymore.
Instead of doing something that winds up the brain right before bed, find activities to help you wind down. Avoid electronics/screen time for at least a half hour prior to hitting the sheets.
The next idea I can offer on how to sleep your way to better health is develop a routine before bed. About a half hour before bed I tend to brush my teeth, take a shower, and just spend a few minutes relaxing. Maybe have some warm tea such as sleepytime tea . Recommended by my mom.
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Watch what you eat and drink before bed. Certain foods and drinks can be too stimulating before bed. Foods high in fat such as ice cream, pasta, pizza, etc. are a poor choice for bedtime snack. By eating foods high in fat you’re not going to give your body a chance to burn any of it before bed, and then all of the sugar is going to pump your body full of energy right before you hit the hay, which means you’ll be sending your body divergent messages. On top of that, the sugar just gets stored and turned to fat, too, so this is a lose-lose situation all around. A smoothie would be a great evening snack. See my post titled Ways to Start Eating Healthy to see a great smoothie recipe.
Another way to promote better sleep is through meditation. So often when I am laying in bed and start to meditate, I end up asleep in minutes. Feel free to read my post Benefits of Meditation for Mental Health. I talk about some common mediation techniques.
What about sleep aids?
This would be a good question for your doctor. He/She will help you find the right medication and dose that is right for you.
Over-the-counter sleep aids can work for some people, but it’s not a good idea to use them regularly for long periods of time. If you do choose to take a supplement I would suggest finding one that is all natural. Harmonium Sleep support is an all natural product with great reviews. There is an ingredient label for you so you can check for any possible allergens.
There are many sleep aid options and some of them will cause you to be drowsing once you wake up in the morning. That’s just never a good feeling.
Choose your sleeping partners wisely!
The last thought I have for promoting a better night’s sleep is to not sleep with your big dog. Or your small dog for that matter.
This is my biggest issue. I can’t kick fido off the bed!! This is a work in progress.
How to stay asleep once you are there
This can be a challenge for a lot of people. Myself included. One of the things I do is turn a fan on to block out and outside noises. That way it takes a lot to wake me up if something is going on in or out of the house. We like to keep a window open at night which puts us at higher risk for traffic noise. The fan really works great for blocking those noises. Another option is a sound machine. Fall asleep to meditative sounds of the ocean, a forest, ect. This can be very soothing to the mind.
Depending whether or not you do shift work, some may need to sleep during the day. In this case I recommend using light block curtains in the room to cover any windows. I have had to work through the night a few times. While I didn’t get a solid days sleep doing that, the few hours I did get were only because of light blocking curtains.
You don’t need to be a third shift worker to need the windows blocked from light. Some nights that moon so bright it’s nice to have them on the window then too. My daughter also has them in my grandchildren’s room so they sleep past 5 a.m. In the summer it gets light out very early.
So there you have it. Some pointers on how to sleep your way to better health. In this post I have offered information on some of the health risks of sleep deprivation, things you can do to get a better night’s sleep, and ways to help you stay sleeping once you have fallen to sleep.
My desire is for you to come away from this article with a little bit of information you may not have had on arrival. Maybe you know what has worked for you to get a better night’s sleep. I would love for you to leave a comment below.
I am very grateful you are here.
Celery is a natural diuretic. Therefore, eating celery before bed isn’t the best choice as it means you may wake up and need to pee during the night.
1. National Sleep Foundation, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/health-impact/how-sleep-deprivation-affects-your-heart