When we talk about about health, the first things that usually come to mind are related to food or fitness. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy my friends.
In order to enjoy a well-rounded, active lifestyle, there several factors beyond food and fitness that come into play, such as hydration, stress and mental health. However, one of the most crucial factors – and arguably the most overlooked factor – is sleep.
Doctor’s recommend that adults get anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Pretty straight-forward right? Not so much.
If you’re like me, you feel like you always have something on the go. Whether it’s a late night at the office, a 10:30pm hockey game or a night on the town with friends, it’s seems like sleep is always getting the short end of the stick.
What we fail to realize is that missing sleep – even by an hour each night – we will be led down the rabbit hole of ‘sleep debt’.
For those unfamiliar with the term ‘sleep debt’, it refers to the overall toll missing sleep has on your body. Ranging from irritability, to fuzzy-headedness or fatigue, sleep debt is your body’s equivalent to running on fumes.
If you’re like me, you will assume that you can recover from the sleep debt you accrued from the week during the weekend. While this may be a quick fix, oversleeping on Saturdays and Sundays will only make your sleep debt problem much worse.
To put this is very vivid context, according to Sleep.org – powered by the National Sleep Foundation – missing three or more hours of sleep a night for a few nights in a row is akin to pulling an all-nighter. Might sound like nothing – especially to university students around exam time – but think about it this way: “Staying up for 24 hours straight and then getting behind the wheel is like driving with a blood-alcohol content that deems you legally drunk in 50 states.” (Sleep.org)
If that’s what missing a handful of hours a sleep a night does to your ability to drive, what kind of impact does limited sleep have on your work, lifestyle and more importantly, your health?
So it’s time to make a change, readers! It’s time that sleep becomes synonymous with health, and we start viewing a healthy sleep pattern as the new kale!
Let’s look at a few ways we can improve our sleep habits:
- Set a bedtime for yourself – You thought those days were over? Think again. Regularly going to bed and getting up works wonders for your sleeping patterns. For me personally, I’m in bed before by 10:30 every week night and try to be asleep by 11 a.m.
- Ditch the screens – You heard me – it’s time for those iPhones to get out of the bedroom. Not only are the screens themselves too bright for a brain that’s trying to wind down for the evening, but the fire hydrant flow of information from screens are in no way preparing you for a restful night’s sleep. My advice: charge your phones away from the bed and turn off all screens at least 30- minutes before you’r targetted bed time.
- Make sure you have a mattress that works – I know it’s a big purchase, especially for young working professionals, but it’s SO worth it. Especially if you’re sharing a bed with a partner, you both need a mattress that works for you! There has been a recent growth in online affordable, transportable mattress companies (XX) so make that your first stop en route to sleeping bliss.
Tried these tips with no success? It may be time to see your doctor and/or take part in a sleep study. Sleeping disorders like sleep apnea, sleepwalking, restless leg syndrome and even narcolepsy are quite common and they may be impacting your sleep cycle.
Happy dreaming readers!
(photo cred: Cassidy Kelley / Sept. 8, 2016)