I was just talking to a friend of mine the other day about how well she sleeps. Her first thought was, “I sleep fine”. When asked more specifically if she woke up in the middle of the night, had trouble falling back asleep etc. she said, “well, yeah”. The interesting thing about this is that, bad sleep is her normal. Because it’s her normal she thinks of it as good sleep.
The more I talk to people about their sleeping habits, the more I find that many of us are not getting good sleep. People wake up in the middle of the night, a couple times a night. They have difficulty getting to sleep in the first place. They sleep for 5 to 6 hours a night every night. And when all is said and done, they think they sleep well. Then we wonder: why are we sick so often, irritable, and tired?
What our bodies do while we sleep
When we’re sleeping, our bodies are actually doing a fair amount of different things. Our tissues repair, muscles grow, hormones are released and help to regulate appetite control, stress, growth, and metabolism.
With this is in mind I’m sure you can imagine a few of the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Increased energy, strengthened immune system, heightened alertness, focus, creativity, and reduced anxiety, irritability, and mental exhaustion.
On the other hand when we get 6 hours of sleep or less we don’t give our bodies the opportunity to recharge. If this is a regular thing we increase risk of disease such as infection, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, and mood disorders.
How to get better sleep
It’s one thing to know we should get good sleep, getting into the habit of it can be another thing entirely. There are several things we can do to make it easier.
- Maintain a consistent daily schedule.
- Reduce your daily intake of caffeine.
- Don’t go to bed on a full or empty stomach.
- Turn off the computer or television a couple hours before bed.
- Engage in regular exercise.
- Limit beverage consumption before bed.
- Invest in comfortable bedding.
If these lifestyle changes aren’t doing the trick, there may be something else going on. In that case, you probably should schedule an appointment and let us take a closer look at what might be keeping you up.