By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
Sleep is natural. It’s difficult to resist, sometimes harder to wake up from, and many find it deprives them completely. We all have slightly different ways of embracing this habitual routine, but one point remains true: sleep is important for us all.
A good night’s sleep, and more importantly, consistently good sleeping patterns are imperative to our health—from brain function, to bodily repairs, to reducing weight gain. While we sleep, our body works overtime to fix itself, using the time to grow muscle and strengthen the immune system to ward off infections.
A healthy amount of sleep (usually seven to nine hours for adults) is also necessary for our wellbeing. During sleep, the memories we make throughout the day are processed and logged in our long-term memory. This helps us take in information, process its meaning and place, and consolidate it within our memory system. Waking from a disturbed night’s sleep doesn’t only leave you feeling less than rested, it reduces your concentration levels and lessens your ability to focus and absorb information.
There are numerous routes you can take to obtain a better night’s sleep depending on the circumstances causing your sleep deprivation. The following are the main causes of interruptions and are usually experienced more than once during our lifetimes:
More serious sleep deprivation, or insomnia, is usually affected by a variation of these factors but can often extend over a period of time. In these cases, many people regularly find it difficult to go to sleep, and their days are continuously affected by a lack of sleep.
Most commonly, stress, anxiety, and depression are the leading causes of insomnia which, in turn, can also be major side effects of sleep deprivation. Concerns about work, family, and money can sometimes be exacerbated when attempting sleep because there are no distractions from worrying thoughts. More recently, the continuation of the COVID-19 lockdown has caused an increase in sleep disturbances due to the daily anxiety brought with it, along with reports of worsening stress-fueled dreams. It’s therefore extremely important to monitor and address your causes of insomnia so you’re better equipped to make any necessary lifestyle changes.
Taking small steps to reduce sleep deprivation factors can have an immediate effect and put you on the path to optimal health.
First though, it’s worth addressing cases of insomnia that are persistent and not improved by natural remedies. In these cases, it’s always best to seek medical assistance, as your doctor can talk you through your symptoms to best direct your course of action.
Many people try over-the-counter sleeping aids in tablet or liquid form to provide a better night’s sleep. However, if you’re open to trying a sleeping aid in this form, there are many natural options which may better suit you and your body:
If you find that supplements are something you’d like to try, always make sure to read the label and follow the stated directions before use. It’s also advisable to consult with a medical professional before taking any new supplement.
More common solutions to a better night’s sleep can be incorporated instantly. First, look to create a comfortable environment and put a solid evening routine in place, taking into account the following:
Finally, and above all, examine your sleep patterns and any level of disturbance in regard to your mental wellbeing. Relaxing your mind is just as important as relaxing your body. Mindfulness-based stress reduction such as podcasts, a hot bath, and deep breathing techniques are good first steps toward easing anxiety. If you find that your sleep is affected regularly by stress, anxiety, and/or depression, you should seek medical assistance from your doctor. At the very least, speak to someone trusted so you’re able to talk through your feelings. Charities like Mind have lots of useful information and contact numbers, should you need them.
Sleep will always remain one of the most important factors in keeping our bodies and minds healthy. Learning its value and how to best respond to any disturbances will put you on a better path to understanding how you can help yourself maintain the very best sleep routine.