Creating a Better Sleep Environment
Good quality sleep is a basic human need that is often overlooked in the discussion on health and wellness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 19% of adults in the US report not getting enough rest or sleep. Sleep habits are one of the first questions we ask our patients as the body cannot heal without enough rest. While our primary goal as therapists is to teach our patients how to move better, we cannot make meaningful progress without the foundations of good health in place. Improving your sleep is an essential first step toward better health whether you have chronic health conditions or not.
What is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation occurs when you either do not get enough sleep total, sleep at the wrong time of day, or do not get good quality sleep. Adults who experience sleep deprivation may report not feeling refreshed when they wake up and feeling tired throughout the day.
There are many negative health effects of sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep can impair brain and physical function, lead to loss of productivity, and has even been linked to early risk of death. Sleep deficiency is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and depression. Therefore improving sleep is very important!
How To Create a Better Sleep Environment
Create Your Ideal Night Routine
Establishing a pre-bedtime routine is the most important component of a good night’s rest. Going through the same motions before you go to bed every night will let your body know that it is time to rest. Create a routine that promotes rest and relaxation close to your chosen bed time.
Start by spending just a few minutes preparing for the following day to help your morning run smooth. This step will allow you some peace of mind knowing you are prepared for the following day so you are not thinking about it during the night.
The next step is focusing on a routine that tells your body and mind to relax. A light stretching routine before bed might help to relax you, but avoid a vigorous workout that might keep you awake.
Also avoid watching TV or looking at a phone within 30 minutes of trying to go to bed as the light from the screen is too bright. Also avoid keeping any screens in the bedroom that may tempt you before bed or during the night. Instead, try meditation or journaling prior to bed (we highly recommend Headspace).
Set a schedule to go to bed at the same time every night and stick to it, that way your internal clock will set itself. Create an environment that is a comfortable temperature with soft lighting to let your body and mind calm down for the day.
Improving the Quality of Your Sleep
Experts cannot seem to agree on the ideal amount of sleep for everyone. Some will say at least 7 hours, some say 8 hours while others might do fine with 6 hours. It may take some time but determine the right amount of sleep for yourself to wake up feeling refreshed.
Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet enough to promote rest. Again, keep your room at a comfortable temperature for you. If you do wake up during the night and have difficulty falling back asleep, avoid watching TV or scrolling through your phone. Do not focus on the time or stress yourself out over not getting enough sleep. Try focusing on your breathing until you fall asleep again.
Create Your Ideal Morning Routine
It is easier to wake up feeling refreshed if you have something to look forward to in the morning. Create rituals that make you look forward to your day and wake up early enough so you are not rushed. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while you read a book, meditate, or journal.
Try incorporating some movement into your morning, whether that is a short stretching or strengthening routine or a walk. Spend a few extra minutes thinking about what the rest of your day will look like before you really have to started.
Start your day off right with a breakfast of whole foods and avoid starting the day with quick, processed food options.
Creating better sleep habits takes time, patience, and a sense of awareness. Remind yourself you do not have to get everything right the first time. Daily practice ultimately leads to healthier habits. What can you improve about your sleep today?
Thank you for reading.
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- What are sleep deprivation and deficiency? NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Jun 2017.