Sleep Like a Baby: Improving Sleep for Health and Wellbeing
Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker
Ah sleep. The wonderful, and sometimes elusive, power of sleep can be both rejuvenating and frustrating. How many of us are getting the number of hours that we really need to wake up the following day feeling refreshed? Do we even realize the effects of inadequate sleep on both our physical and emotional wellbeing? For children, teens and adults alike, sleep is often something we take for granted and either aren’t getting enough of, or the quality of our sleep is poor.
In late summer I enjoy leading a wellness course for teens and parents preparing for college life. I’ll present a list of important factors that contribute to overall wellbeing (nutrition, movement, stress management, organizational habits, relationship skills, and sleep), and will ask, “Out of this list, which factor is the most important to your health as you move into the coming school year?” Most often I hear nutrition, exercise and stress management. These answers come from both teens and their parents, which goes to show how little we really understand and value sleep in our society. Without adequate sleep our bodies can't function at their fullest potential. Poor sleep leads to poor nutritional habits, less motivation to move our bodies, reduced immune system functioning and hormone production, and impacts how we manage time, stay organized, interact with others, and learn. Sleep is king when it comes to wellbeing!
Though adults can feel refreshed with 7-8 hours of sleep (and sometimes less), teens and young adults may need anywhere from 7-10 hours per night (Sleepfoundation.org). Their bodies and brains are continuing to grow and develop well into their mid-twenties. For teens and college students who have packed schedules, challenging academic requirements, and busy social lives, adequate sleep can be an extremely difficult thing to prioritize. Here are some suggestions to put sleep higher on the priority list for optimal performance, health and wellbeing.
1) Prepare your setting: First and foremost, make sure your bedroom space is conducive to sleep (dark room, comfortable, quiet). Grab a set of earplugs and an eye mask at a drug store if there are outside distractions or noisy roommates to contend with.
2) Prepare your body: Limit most drinks (especially alcohol, caffeine and sugar near bedtime). Try to stick to a regular schedule, even on weekends (when possible). Move your body every day (but don’t work-out right before bed!). Don’t nap later in the day, and avoid eating large meals late in the evening. Try a small cup of chamomile or lavender tea an hour or two before bed to help wind down.
3) Prepare your mind: Try aromatherapy, listen to soothing music, read a relaxing book, or write in a journal (this can also be helpful in the middle of the night if you have trouble sleeping).
While adequate sleep can still be challenging for many, making an effort to create small rituals around your sleep routine can have a big impact toward feeling refreshed each day!