We've all heard about the importance of sleep. The majority of us even feel the clear difference between a good night's sleep over a restless night. But, there must be more reasons why we're constantly told to get "at least 8 hours of sleep," right? Which for many of us, is very difficult to do!
According to sleep studies done by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, it has been discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions. Additionally, a good night of sleep allows your body to rest and recover, gives time for your blood pressure and sugar to regulate, and slows the brain down as it sorts through the memories and actions from the day. Overall, sleep is a key driving factor in the health and safety of our bodies in order to rest and rejuvenate!
How can we improve our sleep?
1. Stick to a sleep schedule!
The most important tip of all. In order to improve your sleep, it is suggested to make a sleep schedule and to stick to it. The recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7 to 8 hours. This means doing our best to go to bed around the same time every night and setting an alarm to wake up at the same time in the morning. If you want more flexibility on the weekends, try to only adjust your schedule by an hour or so. It may take a while for your body to adapt to the set sleep schedule, but we promise it’ll be worth it!!
2. Create a relaxing environment
Free your space of as many distractions and hindrances as you can. We all know that our biggest distraction of all is electronic devices; and whether we like to admit to it or not, we’re all dependent on our phones to some degree. When it comes to sleeping, the more we can fight the habit of looking at our bright screens before bedtime, the more prepared our minds will be for sleep. We suggest refraining from picking up your phone 30 minutes before going to sleep. This will help your body and mind to begin “shutting down” and relaxing. Additionally, some experts suggest keeping all electronic devices outside of your room while asleep. We know what you’re thinking: “I need the alarm on my phone!” One doesn’t have to immediately banish their phone from their room, but once a schedule has been picked up, you may not even need an alarm anymore! ;)
3. Be mindful of what you eat and drink.
Do your best to avoid going to bed either extremely stuffed or hungry. In fact, we suggest not eating entire meals within two hours of your bedtime as it may lead to interrupted or uncomfortable sleep. Keep in mind that certain foods are designed to keep you awake and alert! This includes but is not limited to nicotine, cacao (chocolate), and coffee. It is important to pay close attention to the foods we put in our body throughout the day, but most importantly right before bed time. :)
4. Daily exercise and activity!
Being active for at least 30 minutes a day can improve your sleep tremendously. According to John Hopkins University, “[m]oderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get. Slow wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate. Exercise can also help to stabilize your mood and decompress the mind.” While we do encourage daily exercise, it is important to be mindful of the time at which exercise is done. For example, exercising too late may disrupt sleep patterns. If you are doing strenuous and aerobic exercise, we suggest getting it all out at least 1-2 hours before bedtime!
Publishing, Harvard Health. “In Search of Sleep.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/in-search-of-sleep.
“Exercising for Better Sleep.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep.