Sleep is an important part of our lives. We are supposed to be spending a third of our lives asleep, but not everyone is making that happen. Lack of sleep can result in a lot of different problems, including an increased risk in type II diabetes, heart disease, mental health issues, as well as a decreased immune system. It’s a stressful time right now, and more people than ever are having trouble catching the appropriate amount of Zzzs. How can we overcome stress and ensure we are getting the rest our bodies and minds need?
The Importance Of Sleep On Health
Six in ten of the leading causes of death in the United States have been linked to a lack of sleep. Most people know they are supposed to get eight hours of sleep a night, but only a few actually do. Some people fool themselves into believing they can get by on six hours of sleep or less. Others are so busy with life and work, particularly those who have multiple jobs, that they aren’t able to make the time they need to get adequate rest.
The result of not getting enough rest hinges on cortisol and melatonin levels. These are the hormones that regulate our sleep and wake cycles. When you first wake up in the morning your cortisol levels are higher and your melatonin levels are lower. You’ll have higher blood pressure and lower inflammation and you will feel awake and alert.
As the day wears on your melatonin levels rise and your cortisol levels drop, and right before your typical bedtime is one of the highest levels of melatonin you will have all day. Your blood pressure drops and your inflammation levels rise and you begin to feel drowsy and ready for bed.
During sleep your body is in a rest and repair state. Cytokines are released in order to regulate both innate and adaptive immunity. White blood cells accumulate and fight off the antigens trapped in your lymphatic system.
When people don’t get enough sleep, though, these normal functions aren’t taking place. Too little sleep causes cortisol to build, causing you to live in a perpetual state of stress, which wears down your immune system. This causes your inflammatory processes to kick into overdrive, which lowers cytokine production among other issues. Over time, too much cortisol can lead to increased problems with sleeplessness and daytime fatigue, issues with memory and focus, and decreased immunity.
How To Get Better Sleep Starting Tonight
Maintaining a routine is the most important thing when it comes to getting more and better sleep. Keep a regular schedule. Wake up at the same time every day, regardless of what day of the week it is. Go to bed at the same time every day for the same reason. This gives your body a chance to know what to expect so your hormones can do what they need to do. Keeping your body guessing disrupts your cortisol levels and melatonin levels, so your sleep and wake cycles won’t come naturally.
Manage light levels and other comfort factors in your bedroom. Use light blocking shades if you work during the night and sleep during the day or if there are any lights outside your bedroom window. Stop using screens and anything else that emits blue light at least an hour before bedtime. Try to keep the temperature in your room cool, use a white noise machine if there are any distracting noises, and ensure your bedding is clean and comfortable.
If you still can’t sleep:
- Make sure you aren’t sabotaging yourself by taking naps during the day.
- Take an honest look at your caffeine intake – are you getting too much or not cutting it off early enough in the day?
- Don’t try to keep trying. Get up and read for a while and try again later.
If you are waking up frequently because of nightmares, you’re not alone. Increased stress has been shown to impact quality of sleep and lead to higher levels of negative content in dreams. Oftentimes, dreams during times of stress and trauma are more vivid and more memorable, which can make you feel as though you haven’t slept at all.
It’s time to harness the power of sleep. Learn more from the infographic below.
Source: Online Mattress Review
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Author: Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, and hosts the Next Action Podcast. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019.