During our busy day to day lives, we often lose sight of how important rest is for our minds and bodies. Most adults need around 7 hours of quality sleep per night, while school-aged children and teens need anywhere from 8 to 12 hours each night. Our bodies use this time as a sort of “reset” period, and sleeping for the recommended amount of time for your age group is essential to a happy and healthy lifestyle. In today’s blog we’re going to go over some of the benefits of quality sleep, how to establish a sleep schedule that works for you, as well as tips to get you to sleep on restless nights.
Besides the obvious benefit of feeling well rested in the morning, did you know that sleeping well can help improve your immune system? The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) states that getting enough sleep each night can lead to you getting sick less often and help you recover from infectious diseases faster. This is something you may be familiar with if you’ve ever taken time off work with a cold, spent the day resting, then woke up feeling much better. Your immune system thrives while the body is resting, and releases inflammation-fighting proteins called cytokines, as well as antibodies and white blood cells that help to fight infection. The same article from the DHHS goes on to list lowered stress levels and a steady body weight regulation as added benefits of sleep as well.
In addition to these important health factors, your behavior and interpersonal relationships are also affected by the amount of sleep you get every night. It goes without saying that a bad night’s sleep can cause irritability, a lack of focus, and lapses in judgement that can affect your work, relationships, and overall well-being. In an office setting, a lack of sleep can lead to avoidable errors such as simple typos, or the dreaded accidental “reply all” to a company-wide email. Outside the office, the consequences of sleep deprivation can be much more severe. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 100,000 car accidents occur each year in the US as a result of drowsy driving. Over 1,500 of these accidents result in fatalities every year, all of which could have been avoided by proper amounts of sleep. So not only is a good night’s sleep important for your own health, it is just as important for the health and safety of those around you.
Now that we’ve discussed the importance of sleep on your health, let’s talk about establishing healthy sleep schedules and how to determine what works for you. If you aren’t familiar with the term
“sleep schedule”, it refers to your body’s biological clock that helps you feel tired at night and energetic and rested in the morning. Keeping in mind that the average adult needs 7 hours of sleep per night, a healthy sleep schedule might have you falling asleep at 11:00pm and waking up at 8:00am. You may have a sleep schedule similar to this one, or it may be entirely different depending on your personal habits and work schedule. No matter your preferred sleep and wake times, it’s important to keep these times consistent and to strive for 7 hours each night in order to gain the health benefits mentioned above. Consistency of sleep and wake times is a vital part of establishing a healthy sleep schedule.
For those who work the night shift, staying consistent with your sleep schedule may be extra difficult. The night shift will have you working through the night and sleeping through the day, which is not ideal for your body’s circadian rhythm. According to the Sleep Foundation, the best way to stay alert on the job during these challenging shifts is to try and maintain the same sleep schedule even on your off days. That means if your job has you waking up around 5:00pm and going to sleep at 8:00am, you should continue this pattern even when you aren’t working in order to help you avoid “shift work disorder”. Shift work disorder is a condition frequently found amongst night shift workers that shares many symptoms with common insomnia, leaving people feeling wide awake at bedtime and exhausted while at work. In addition to maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, the Sleep Foundation also recommends using sleeping masks, ear plugs, or white noise machines to help you sleep through the day without being woken up by light or noise from outside.
While sleeping masks and white noise may work for some people, there are plenty of other ways to help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. For some people, a simple nightly routine may help them fall asleep, while others may need to adjust their thermostat to feel comfortable enough to doze off. No matter your preferences, your ability to fall asleep can be altered in more ways than you’d think. For instance, consuming caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine before bed can be enough to keep you awake longer than you’d like, and it is recommended to avoid these in the few hours before you anticipate going to sleep. In addition, external factors such as stress and anxiety can be detrimental to your ability to fall asleep, so try and relax a bit before bed. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga are great ways to help you reduce your stress levels, which in turn can help you get to sleep faster and easier. Using
electronic devices before bed has also been shown to reduce your ability to fall asleep due to the blue light emitted from your device’s screen. Following these guidelines should make falling asleep less of a hassle, and help you feel more well rested when you wake up in the morning.
We spend roughly half of our lives sleeping, so why not make it worthwhile? A good night’s rest can help you stay healthy, organized, and alert the next day. Try to find a sleep schedule that works for you, ensuring that you get at least 7 hours per night, and you’ll feel the difference a good night’s rest makes. For more information on the benefits of sleep and how to sleep better, check out the links below. Our staff at Forte Wellbeing can help you find ways to improve your quality of sleep that work for you.
National Safety Council: