By Jessie Lucas
Have you ever joked, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? I admire your sense of hustle, but I’m here to tell you that it’s time to rethink that philosophy. No matter how busy you are or how much energy you have, it’s important to make time to rest — and to make sure you’re sleeping well. If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter, you know what sleep deprivation feels like . . . and that it’s not pretty! When you’re overtired, you lose your ability to think clearly, are more likely to be stressed and grouchy, and may be prone to overeating. One or two sleepless nights are bad enough, but if you’re habitually under-rested, it’s a recipe for disaster. Let’s check out the mental and emotional benefits of rest and make sure you’re making the most of your nightly snooze.
What Is Sleep Deprivation?
To begin, let’s talk a little about what sleep deprivation means: In simple terms, it’s when you’re not getting enough sleep for your body and mind to recharge. There’s no “right” amount of sleep that applies to everyone — you may require nine hours of sleep per night to function properly, while your spouse or sibling may require only seven. When it comes to getting adequate rest, you shouldn’t compare yourself to anyone else. You aren’t “weak” or “lazy” if you need more sleep than your friends, colleagues, or family members!
We can experience chronic sleep deprivation for a number of reasons rooted in both our physical and mental wellness, from disorders like sleep apnea to stress-induced insomnia. You may also be under-rested because you work long hours or because you have a hard time going to bed. And if you have a newborn baby or a young kid who’s a problematic sleeper, you probably haven’t enjoyed a full eight hours in weeks or even months.
Whatever the cause, the effects of sleep deprivation can range from mildly annoying to downright devastating. Sure, it’s not the end of the world to be a little crabby after pulling the occasional all-nighter. However, in the long term, a lack of adequate rest can lead to issues like weight gain, hypertension, and heart disease, as well as depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline. Additionally, just a day or two without sufficient shut-eye can impair your judgment significantly — per Johns Hopkins Medicine, “drowsy driving” causes 6000 fatal car accidents annually. As you can see, some of the worst sleep deprivation effects aren’t anything to brush off. Let’s make sure you aren’t experiencing any of them!
The Mental and Emotional Benefits of Sleeping Well
Do you know people who love to talk (or post on social media) about how busy and hectic their lives are? For some reason, it’s become de rigueur to humblebrag about how much you’ve got going on at work and at home. Some people like to wear their full schedules like badges of honor, as it makes them feel more important than other people. If you know someone like this, resist the urge to emulate their (ostensibly) packed calendar. If this person really is skimping on sleep time regularly, they’re bound to experience the negative effects of stress on the body, like weakened immunity and chronic muscle tension.
Sleeping well can help you live your best life. Being well-rested means you’ll begin each day with a clear head, you’ll be less prone to feelings of anxiety and depression, and your memory and problem-solving skills will be sharper and stronger. And if you have a mental health diagnosis, like major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, or anxiety disorder, getting adequate sleep can help ease your symptoms. So please don’t let anyone tell you that you’re inferior in some way because you need your nightly shut-eye. It’s not an indulgence; it’s essential self-care.
Tips for Better Sleep
Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of sleep, be honest with yourself. Could you be sleeping better most nights? If so, you’re not alone. The CDC estimates that one in three adults don’t get enough rest. Here are some pointers for improving your time in the sack.
Establish a Routine
It’s not always easy, but do your best to go to bed at the same time each night. You can signal to your body that it’s almost bedtime by washing up and changing into your comfiest pajamas. You can try diffusing a scent that makes you feel relaxed, like lavender oil, to help you feel sleepy.
Make Your Bedroom a Sleep Sanctuary
You want to minimize your screen time when you’re winding down for the day. That means banishing your smartphone, tablet, and TV from your bedroom. If you love to read in bed before turning off the light, choose a good old-fashioned book or a magazine rather than a device with blue light.
Nix the Beverages
Nothing interferes with your healthy sleep habits like having to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Enjoy your last cup of coffee or caffeinated soda by lunchtime, and avoid drinking alcoholic beverages before lights-out time. Of course, if you’re attending an evening wedding or celebrating a special occasion, you might break your own rules — just don’t make a habit of boozing it up before bed.
Seek Professional Help
If you’re engaging in best practices for healthy sleep and still feel like you aren’t getting enough rest, there’s no shame in asking for help. Your general practitioner can refer you to an expert who can help you overcome issues like sleep apnea, snoring, or insomnia. There may be an easy and painless way to solve your sleep problems.
Goodnight, Sleep Tight!
Regardless of what’s going on in your life, making rest a priority will help you be your best self, physically and mentally. You owe it to yourself to get a good night’s sleep! Let me know in the comments section if any of my tips have helped you enjoy a better snooze.