Illustrated by Nate Chappell
Sleep produces life-changing results for your body, yet it seems to be the one thing fighting the most for your attention. While the busyness of life and stress of the global pandemic can create unhealthy sleeping patterns, learn from local medical experts on how to have the best sleep routine daily and how you can benefit from it.
There is something incredibly powerful about a good night’s sleep. It’s even noted by some A-list celebrities as one of the “secrets” to looking forever young. It can empower you with a whole new mood and be a huge confidence booster as you walk out to face a new day. All it takes is that moment of surrender where you shut off the crazy distractions and get some quality time with your favorite pillow.
According to local medical experts, sleep is so much more than something you do to re-energize for the next day. “It plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life” (Thane Htun, MD, Lakeland Regional Health pulmonologist). So why does your sleep schedule seem to always get the shorter end of your bargain? Sleep deficiency has become quite prevalent in today’s day and age.
Think about last night, for example. You come home after a long day of work and find yourself with a list of things to do before hitting the sheets. Or maybe you hit the gym to work out for several hours. Or you go out with your friends and family for a night out. When you finally make your way to the bedroom, your weary eyes find entertainment and refuge in the blue-light screen of your TV, iPhone, or MacBook Air.
Suddenly, your mind is overstimulated and unable to unwind. Next thing you know, it’s three o’clock in the morning, and your night’s rest is rudely interrupted by the resounding gong that is your alarm clock. This cycle is more common than we think.
Other common sleep detours include food in the bedroom, pets roaming around in the bedroom, and TV watching in the bedroom –– all overstimulating your brain and keeping you from truly winding down for the night.
“more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.”
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.” With this in mind, there are quite a few contributing factors, too. Local managing partner, John Evans, of Polk Starlight Sleep Labs, LLC, shares that there are “three components [that contribute to the overall health of your sleep]: 1) nutrition; 2) rules [or habits to ensure a] good sleep every night; and 3) lifestyle choices.”
Every choice you make affects your sleeping patterns. When your sleeping patterns are compromised and REM (known as Rapid Eye Movement, which is the dreaming stage) is not reached in your cycle, your body’s chemistry is disrupted. Evans concurs that REM is a crucial part of a healthy sleep schedule. “It’s like your computer restoring, refreshing, and resorting your brain every night,” he says. “When we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t reach that point in the cycle, and our body becomes disorganized internally.”
Sleep affects every part of our lives, from our immunity to our ability to function. Dr. Htun urges his patients to prioritize sleep, no matter their age. He says, “While you’re sleeping, your brain is forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning.” Lack of sleep has been linked to serious health conditions such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, obesity, and suicidal thoughts.
Dr. Eric Lipson from Watson Clinic serves locally as a board-certified sleep medicine specialist and sleep center medical director. In addition to the wide range of mental health risks and heart risks, he adds that lack of sleep can cause “impaired memory and performance.”
Sleep deprivation can be lethal to the human body. Dr. Htun says, “It’s estimated that driver sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.”
HEALTHY SLEEPING TIPS
Your body relies on sleep to hit the reset button and refresh its state in hopes for a healthier tomorrow. Every cell in your body depends on this to rest and to flush out all of the toxins that accumulated throughout the day within your body. Sleep is also linked to cell regeneration which also occurs while you’re asleep. When your body doesn’t receive the sleep it needs, it not only suffers, but it diminishes your ability to fight off infections.
While the current state of our world is feeling angst from the pandemic, it’s vital to maintain a healthy sleep schedule. If you’re finding it difficult to get quality sleep, here are a few tips from local experts on how to get the best sleep of your life.
1. Create and maintain a regular sleep routine.
Your body needs at most two hours of disconnection time from technology before going to sleep. Schedule a consistent time where you are turning your phone off, getting ready for bed, and then going to sleep — at the same time every night, including weekends. This will get your body in the right mindset and help you get to bed at a decent time to ensure you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep.
2. Reserve the bed for sleep and intimacy.
Many times, as multitaskers, we bring everything in the bedroom with us: food, cellphones, laptops, radios, TVs, pets — you name it. With so much stimulation happening around you, this makes it difficult for your mind to be at ease. Be intentional about creating a quiet, dark room with cool temperatures so your body can unwind for rest. Make it a habit to leave that ever-ringing cellphone in the other room.
3. Don’t take daytime naps, if possible.
Naps at the right time are such a mood-lifter, right? But when they last too long or are taken later in the day, they can disrupt your sleeping schedule and keep you up at night. If you do decide to take a nap, keep it early and no more than 20 minutes long.
4. Avoid stimulants.
That’s right — caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and over-the-counter medicines. Steer clear from taking any of these things before going to sleep. As stimulants, these can reduce your ability to sleep well and promote a nocturnal lifestyle.
5. Exercise earlier in the day.
Rigorous exercise activities can be an awesome calorie burner. But if you work out later in the evening (closer to your bedtime), it may prevent you from experiencing a good night’s rest. Plan ahead, and get those reps in early at the gym so the couple hours before you sleep, you’re able to fully unwind and rest your mind and body.
Things may feel out of your control this year, but one thing’s for sure: If you find time in your schedule to prioritize sleep, your body (and mind) will thank you immensely.