Many people have a hard time understanding the importance of sleep because it does not involve an active choice in the same manner that choosing what you eat or choosing to exercise does. However, getting enough rest, and ensuring that the rest you do get is quality rest has as much or even more of an impact on your health as what you choose to eat and how much — or how little — you choose to exercise.
In fact, when you do not get good or adequate rest, research indicates that the impacts can be swift and far-reaching, and can negatively impact critical systems of the human body, including the endocrine system, which is crucial to the production of the hormones you need to stay awake, alert, active, and keep from becoming depressed, among many other things.
What’s more, because sleep impacts your hormone production, not getting enough of it can even determine things like weight and your body’s ability to stave off illness and disease, even diseases you may be genetically predisposed to, according to physicians.
In today’s insanely fast-paced world, getting enough sleep may be harder for some than coming across a quality meal or a decent amount of exercise. And, it is important to understand that you could be doing absolutely everything right — without enough quality sleep, much of what you’re doing in the “healthy” column won’t matter much.
With all of this important data in mind, let’s take a look at a few things you can do to get more sleep and improve the sleep that you are getting.
Stop Napping During the Day, With a Few Notable Exceptions
Napping during the day is one of the best ways to fast-track yourself into insomnia. A nap at midday can cause trouble because usually, we only mean to sleep for half an hour to an hour, and our bodies are so deprived of rest that we wind up not even hearing the alarm we set, and then sleeping for a lot longer than we intended to. This kind of napping almost always leads to staying up too late and repeating the cycle all over again.
Of course, as with most things in life, there are a few exceptions to napping in the daytime. For one, people over the age of 65 can and even should take naps, as these can be restorative for people who have a slower metabolism and for whom sleep at night may be difficult for different reasons, not the least of which can be some medications.
Additionally, people who work at night should, of course, sleep during the day. And, quite the opposite can be true for this group; in other words, if you work at night, try to always sleep during the day, even on the days you have off, if possible, as this will ensure that you stay on your routine and get healthier sleep, whenever you sleep.
Keep a Regular Schedule for Sleep and Waking Hours
No matter what kind of schedule you have to keep for work, school, kids, or life in general, keeping the same sleep schedule every single day of the week — even on the weekends — can help to ensure you have a more normal sleep pattern, and thus healthier and more restful sleep.
Wherever you can, try to maintain the same schedule each and every day, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Taking these kinds of measures will ensure that your body is ready to get into active mode at the same time every day, and likewise, ready to get rest at the same time every day.
Once you have a regular pattern in place, fight to maintain it, because other people will always have things they want you to do outside of your schedule. Guard your sleep schedule like a warrior, and you will find yourself feeling more rested and more alert within just a couple of weeks’ time.
Say Goodbye to the Booze
Many of us enjoy a nice cocktail after work or a glass of wine with dinner. Unfortunately, imbibing too much or too often can have a negative impact on our sleep rhythm, and can even keep the human body from creating its nighttime supply of melatonin, which helps to lull us to sleep at the time that’s appropriate.
Furthermore, the consumption of alcoholic beverages can also reduce the amount of human growth hormone we produce while we sleep, which can not only cause a deficit in the amount of sleep we get, but can also create issues with how the liver, kidneys, spleen, and even brain work during our waking hours.
If you absolutely must have an alcoholic beverage, keep it to one, make it wine, and drink it with dinner so that it goes down with food rather than alone, which will help your body metabolize it in a manner that keeps it from impacting sleep too much.
Turn Your Bedroom Into a Sleep Haven
So many of our bedrooms are so busy. Televisions, stereos, children’s toys and games, stuff for pets, and perhaps worst of all, blackout curtains that don’t let in natural light at the time of day it should be coming in. With all of this stuff in our sleep space, it’s almost as if the last thing we intend to do here is sleep.
Instead of all this physical and mental noise congesting your space, instead, turn your bedroom into a space dedicated to the art and science of sleep. Remove blackout curtains (unless your work at night) and let in natural light at the appropriate time. Make the TV an event for the living room only.
Clear out all of the clutter that belongs to people who are not you. And, if you need to, put that stereo to positive use: play soothing music or sleep stories that can get you in the mood for rest rather than using it to gear you up with loud music.
Lay Down the Law With Loved Ones and Kids
Unless you have a baby, you should be able to lay down the law with the people you share a home with. That means that everyone needs to know when you go to sleep, what time of day you expect the house to be quiet when to stop bothering you for all of the various things they need, and frankly, when to go to bed themselves.
If you do not play hardball with those who share your space, they absolutely will wake you up in one way or another. For this reason, you have to have open and honest communication with your cohabitation buddies about how valuable your rest is to you. Whether you live with kids and a spouse or roommates, and no matter how much they claim to love you, they will wake you if you do not set firm limits on your space and sleep time.
Once you have done this, you will find that your rest is respected, and honestly, it’s more a sign that you respect your own rest — and that’s when you will find that you are finally getting the rest you sorely need — and deserve.