Ah, sleep. Thinking about it now makes me want to curl up in bed. Lie on comfy sheets and become enveloped under a soft, weighted blanket with a fluffy pillow supporting your head. It’s enough to make any of our eyelids heavy…and could show that we’re missing out on this key element of our health.
The truth is, when we miss out on sleep, we’re not depriving ourselves of a luxury. We’re robbing ourselves of a necessity that has more detrimental effects than grogginess.
Let’s take a look at the impacts of poor sleep and some practical steps for improving your sleep routine.
The Bad Effects
First things first: let’s start with the bad things before you decide your mediocre sleep schedule is just fine.
When we’re stressed or overwhelmed, it’s easy to prioritize anything else but sleep. Even if we’re working to improve our health, sleep might be on the backburner. However, there are serious consequences for not getting enough sleep—some of them lifelong.
Without enough sleep, you put your body at risk of:
- Heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes
- Weight gain
- A weakened immune system
- Lower libido
Sleep is also instrumental to our mental health and cognitive function. If we miss it, we’re prone to:
- Memory problems
- Trouble focusing
- Mood swings
- Anxiety or depression
If we want to work on our health, sleep ought to be the top priority.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
So, the real question is, how much is enough sleep, then? Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep. But if you struggle to stay awake when sitting still for some time, be it driving or watching a movie, you’re likely not getting enough sleep.
How to Improve Your Sleep Routine
Get More Sleep
Well, duh. But you can’t, you say. Realistically, it might be tough for you to get an hour or two more sleep than you do now. If that’s the case, start slow, as you would with any habit.
You could start with just five minutes earlier tonight. That’s it. While that doesn’t sound like much, if you start making it five minutes earlier over some time, that starts to add up. Even if you increase it weekly, you’ll make it to about a half hour of more sleep in a month.
That said, quality matters as much as quantity in sleep. As such, you’ll want the most comfortable environment for sleep. Maybe it’s time to invest in a better pillow or sheets. If you’d do better in a darker room, get thicker curtains. Or, if every little creak in your house wakes you up, you might need a sound machine. Whatever it is, you deserve a good night’s rest!
Create a Better Evening Routine
While you want a good environment to sleep in, you also need to prepare yourself for sleep. Do you find yourself working late into the night? Or having intense discussions with someone? Maybe the last thing you do is scroll on your phone in bed before going to sleep. Any of these things can make it difficult to fall asleep.
So, what can you do? Have a clear-cut time when you begin prepping for bed. I’d suggest a couple of hours before your bedtime (and if you don’t have a bedtime, I’d establish one, too). During this time, start slowing your mind down for the evening. Perhaps you don’t do any work or answer emails past this point. Or, you don’t get on your phone after this point. Instead, read a book, soak in a bath, or whatever else you do to wind down.
Again, this might feel impossible to begin right away. So, set a very achievable goal tonight and slowly work toward a better evening routine.
This new year, as we’re thinking about how to improve our health, make sure your sleep schedule is at the top of your list! After all, you know you want more of it, so why don’t you do yourself a favor and enjoy the sleep you’re meant to have?