Why it’s not selfish to want to get the best sleep of your life.
As women, we sacrifice a lot to keep the plates of our responsibilities spinning smoothly. Significant others, children, parents (in-laws!), bosses, employees, side hustles, volunteer work, friendships – we live intricately tangled webs of commitments to others. But this often comes at a pricey cost – sleep.
Sleep? Seriously? Is that it?!
It may sound silly or perhaps even obvious, but, in fact, several studies explain why sleep is critical for overall health and well-being – and why shirking your rest time ends up being more harmful in the long run.
What defines good sleep?
The National Sleep Foundation in the US runs a quarterly Sleep Health Index survey to gauge how rested Americans are (or aren’t). This index measures three specific dimensions – duration, quality, and disordered sleep. And while there may be individual differences as to how long someone needs to sleep to feel “truly” rested and refreshed (typically 7-9 hours for adults), there are some findings regarding sleep quality that apply pretty universally.
For example, maintaining a regular sleep schedule has been found to impact productivity and physical energy. Deviating from your regular sleep time by even an hour detrimentally impacts a person’s performance the following day. Sleep Health Index respondents who maintained a regular sleep schedule were 2.5x more likely to have “excellent” sleep health than those with “poor” sleep health.
Interested in assessing your sleep quality? Check out this sleep quality questionnaire from Ariana Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution.
Why does good sleep matter?
Sleep (or lack of) is something that affects your whole body. If you’re getting less than your needed duration or quality of sleep, you’ll start to see evidence of this in your waking life.
Brain: In the short-term, you’ll find you’re tired, forgetful, and irritable. In the long-term, you may notice a lack of concentration leading to lousy job performance, mood swings leading to relationship strain, and symptoms of depression.
Heart: The correlation between sleep health and heart health is stunning. A study by the University of Warwick found that people who were getting less than 6 hours of sleep were 48% more likely to die of heart disease and 15% more likely to develop a stroke. Immune system: When you’re sleep-deprived, your immune system is weaker, and you’re more likely to get sick (Loughborough University). There are also data suggesting that those with sleep loss/poor quality of sleep need more sick days per year (WebMD).
Accident: Lack of sleep causing lack of attention or alertness can cause accidents. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says 1 in 25 adults report falling asleep at the wheel, resulting in roughly 6,000 fatal car crashes a year.
There’s no denying that having a better quality of sleep health translates to a better quality of overall health and well-being.
How to get the best sleep?
To get yourself to the land of restful slumber more easily, here are five do-able sleepy time tips we love:
Avoid late-night snacking before bed that can cause heartburn or stimulation (we’re looking at you, caffeine).
Get moving – but at a time that works for you. Some people swear by a morning sweat session to boost energy; others find decompressing with an evening gym visit to be what works for them. Pay attention to your body to find your optimal time to exercise so that it doesn’t disrupt your sleep health.
Put down the phone. Tech-free bedrooms are all the rage these days for a reason – this interferes with your body’s natural rhythm by suppressing melatonin. So, try using blue light filters or cut off screen time altogether.
Set and stick to your bedtime routine: Whether it’s an aromatherapy bath or a guided meditation, a consistent signal of approaching bedtime helps to get you in the right mindset.
Get comfy: Set your optimal temperature, find sheets you love to lay on and pick sleepwear that you look forward to getting into. These little luxuries go a long way to feeling happy and relaxed enough to ease into joyful sleep.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, as the saying goes. So, consider the science behind getting a solid sleep as not only investing in yourself but in your ability to show up for all the other commitments you juggle. Doing what you need to do to get a better quality of sleep is an individual art, but the underlying mantra holds true – sleep is sanity. And don’t we owe ourselves that?
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35.3% of adults get less than 7 hours of sleep
50-70 million people suffer from insomnia in the US