Most of us know that sleep is important. Our sleep — or lack thereof — can make or break a day, a job, or a relationship. With enough sleep we’re happier, healthier, more productive people. Without it, we become moody zombies who can barely remember what day it is, only that the weekend seems too far away.
We spend so much time, money, and effort on other aspects of our health and wellbeing. We pay for gym subscriptions and yoga classes. We make a mess in our kitchens every morning attempting to make a green juice that’ll somehow fix our tired minds and bodies immediately. (That, or queuing for a giant coffee becomes a top priority in our morning routine.) What if we were to invest in something utterly free — our sleep.
Sleep is Essential For Wellness
It is recommended that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. And when your colleague at work says that she can survive on just four hours a night, ignore her. While we may be able to complete a given task on less sleep than our well-rested counterparts, throw an obstacle into the equation and we’re rendered useless.
Dr. Itzhak Fried, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles, authored a study on how sleep deprivation disrupts the ability of our brain cells to communicate with each other. “We discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly,” he said in a statement. “This paves the way for cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us.”
Sleep deprivation not only makes us less effective at our jobs and all areas in our life, it can also have detrimental effects on our long-term mental and physical wellbeing. A lack of sleep has been linked to anxiety and depression, while physically it can lead to conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
How to Improve Your Sleep Habit
Here are four things you can do to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep:
- Exercise: By doing at least half an hour of exercise a day – walking, jogging, swimming, whatever gets you moving – you’re giving your body a stretch and distracting your mind from whatever stresses are plaguing you. They’ll thank you by shutting down when you need them to.
- Eat right: This doesn’t just mean eating healthily, although of course that’s an important part of any wellness routine. There are certain foods which actually promote sleep – for instance, almonds and cereal – so by having these an an evening snack you can boost your chances of getting those zzzs in at a reasonable hour.
- Get some fresh air: Whether it’s a hike in the mountains or a quick power walk around the block, a little fresh air can go a long way in helping you settle down at night. Or why not dine al fresco whenever’s the weather’s nice and eat your lunch in your nearest park? Your eyes will thank you for the change from your computer screen.
- Establish an evening routine: Winding down for the night early can make all the difference in sleeping peacefully or tossing and turning until morning. Switch off those screens an hour before bedtime and do something that will help you relax. Have a bath, read a book, meditate, hang out with the cat, fold the laundry, whatever it takes. Do this regularly as a prelude to sleep and you’ll find that your brain is that much more able to unwind.
By weaving these habits into your daily routine, you’ll start to see the impacts in your wider life. With a body and mind that is well rested and alert, you’ll be that much more resilient both physically and emotionally.