Maximizing Your Sleep Health for Wellbeing
Snoozing, slumbering and taking a siesta are all ways we can describe that most essential human need: sleep. Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, quality sleep is one of the key ingredients in wellbeing and positive mental health. In this article, we'll consider how sleep issues can impact our physical and mental health, and how we can make changes to improve our sleep. We’ll consider the role exercise and working out has to play in sleep health and therefore mental health.
The Impact of Poor Sleep:
Studies have shown that quality rest as part of a healthy sleep routine promotes healing, immune function and proper metabolism. You’ll know yourself that when you don’t get enough rest, or experience troubled sleep, you feel lethargic, groggy and have difficulty concentrating. It can feel very much like you are existing under a gray cloud when you’ve slept badly. Indeed, poor sleep and sleep related issues can impact physical and mental health. In an article published in 2014 in the Journal of Sleep, scientific research revealed poor sleep increases a person’s risk of experiencing a vast range of health conditions, including greater risks of diabetes, heart issues, obesity, depression and anxiety. When we experience poor sleep, stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol increase in the blood. This leads to higher blood pressure and compromises our immune system. Sleep-deprived people often report experiencing anxiety and depression.
Sleep Health: Wake Up Feeling SATED.
So, we know poor sleep is not good for our health, and aiming for a quality sleep routine is an excellent goal if we take our physical and mental health seriously. But, what do we mean by sleep health? Sleep health means more than simply the absence of sleep problems. Sleep health refers to sleep patterns that support wellness, performance, and adaptation. Such sleep is regular and involves us taking a break and disengaging fully from the environment in order for our brain to optimize our physiology, our behavior and our health.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh devised an acronym to describe the five dimensions of good sleep health. Their work makes use of the word SATED:
Working Out Your Next Steps to Better Sleep Health:
So, if we are going to achieve sleep that leaves us feeling sated and satisfied when we wake, what can we put in place to support that outcome? Let’s consider three simple sleep health hacks:
Work Out Regularly: There is plenty of evidence pointing to the positive effects of exercise and physical movement upon sleep health. Studies from John Hopkins University have shown the effects of aerobic exercise on sleep appear to be similar to those of sleeping pills. Exercise is a helpful tool for managing anxiety, which means that we can feel calmer and more relaxed when we then settle down to sleep. Indeed, working out and looking after your physical health can increase your motivation in other areas of your life, so that you are more inclined to eat a healthy, mood-enhancing diet, and avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol: both of which can interfere with sleep health. Working out can be a key factor in sleep health. And, it’s a virtuous cycle, when we sleep well, we have more energy to support us in achieving our fitness goals, and to gain that sense of positive self-esteem as a result.
Unwind and relax before bed: Finding ways to calm a frazzled mind can be helpful to sleep health. A relaxing bath, enjoying a good book, or some meditation or yoga can all be part of a healthy sleep routine. For some people, that means avoiding vigorous exercise before bed, and instead scheduling work out times for earlier in the day. A calm body and mind mean you are less likely to be tossing and turning as you worry about the day’s niggles. And, if you do, have a notepad by your bed, ready to write a brief sentence to commit that worry to paper. You can then tell yourself you will deal with it in the morning. Seek support and help for longer term worries and concerns. Your sleep health is too important to bury your head in the sand.
Sleep at regular times as part of a sleep schedule: We benefit from a consistent and regular sleep routine. Try to avoid sleeping later on the weekends in order to accommodate burning the midnight oil during the week. Aim for regular bedtime and wake times, and then stick to these.
So, sleep health matters. If you take your physical and mental health seriously, it is well worth investing in attending to your sleep, so that you can slumber in style, each and every night.
Today, consider one of the steps we can take to regulate our ANS. Set a daily goal of how you can implement one of these into your day.