Why Is Sleep So Important for Your Health?
Have you ever had one of those mornings where you woke up refreshed and ready to face the day? It’s a great feeling, right?
What about those days when you wake up feeling exhausted and devoid of energy—and all you can think about as the seconds tick by is how tired you are and when you can go back to bed?
As avid Health and Life Coaches, we know the importance of a good night’s sleep, but just how important is sleep for your overall health and well being?
Let’s dive into why getting a solid night’s sleep is so crucial, tips to get better sleep and what to avoid if you want to sleep like a baby and wake up feeling energized and refreshed.
Why We Need Sleep
Sleep is critical to our health and wellness. It’s the body’s time to repair itself. The better quality of sleep you receive, the better your body will function and feel. When you sleep well, you wake up energized, alert, ready to take on the day’s challenges, and live with passion and purpose.
When you get quality sleep, you show up at work and for our clients in a more enlivened and energized way. You’re also able to connect and focus on what you need to do easier, without it feeling like a struggle. Your co-workers and clients can often tell if you’re not feeling your best, and this is one of the reasons why we need sleep, in order to show up as our best selves.
The Dangerous Effects of Bad Sleep
There are dangerous effects of bad sleep that you might not even be aware of. Poor sleep can affect SO many areas of your life including weight gain, difficulty concentrating, stress, mood changes, hormone imbalance, and more.
And unfortunately, we’re in the midst of a sleep epidemic of epic proportions. The Sleep Foundation has reported that more than a third of Americans don’t get the minimum recommended 7-8 hours of sleep. Between 10 and 30% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia, with an estimated economic impact of over $411 billion dollars a year in the U.S. alone.
Drowsy driving is responsible for more than 6,000 fatal car crashes each year in America. And people with severe insomnia are reportedly seven times more likely to have an accident on the job than their well-rested coworkers.
As you can see, lack of sleep is more dangerous than many of us even realize and can have far-reaching consequences, beyond just ourselves. It’s our duty to ourselves and our community to ensure we’re properly and adequately rested.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
You might be thinking: But how much sleep do I need? You’ve likely heard various numbers, but the truth is sleep needs vary by individual. Here are some general guidelines for how much sleep you should aim for depending on your age.
|Birth to 3 months||14 – 17 hours|
|4 to 11 months||12 – 16 hours|
|1 to 2 years||11 – 14 hours|
|3 to 5 years||10 – 13 hours|
|6 to 12 years||9- 12 hours|
|13 to 18 years||8 – 10 hours|
|18 to 64 years||7 – 9 hours|
|65+ years||7 – 8 hours|
Again, these are just guidelines. What’s more important is to pay attention to how you feel when you get a certain number of hours of sleep. Here are some questions to ask yourself and that you can ask your Health and Life Coaching clients who are struggling with fatigue and sleep problems:
Do I feel better rested after 7 hours, or more like 8 or 9?
Do I feel drowsy during the day?
Do I frequently need to nap to make it through the day?
Do I rely on caffeine to keep me going?
Do I regularly go to bed at the same time each night?
Tweak your schedule according to the sleep window that makes you feel your best.
And one more note on sleep quantity: clocking the recommended number of hours isn’t a guarantee you’ll wake up feeling rested, but it’s a starting place. It’s equally, if not more, important to ensure you’re getting quality sleep, which we’ll address next.
20 Tips For Better Sleep Habits
If you or your clients are not sleeping well, having trouble falling asleep, or you’re waking up multiple times a night, don’t assume you’re just a bad sleeper! There are many things you can do to improve your bedtime habits. Here are 20 ways to promote deep, restful, and rejuvenating sleep so you wake up feeling your best every day.
- Practice regular sleep rhythms. Irregular sleep patterns can impact your body’s natural circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, which signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. In fact, heading to bed at irregular times takes a toll on the body that’s similar to jet lag. So try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. Tip: set a bedtime alarm to help you hit the hay at the same time each day.
- Create a calming environment in your bedroom that encourages sleep. Decorate with a serene color palette (blues tend to be best for relaxation but other muted colors are also good options). Make a point to remove any clutter, which can promote stress. Keeping your bedroom is simple as possible will help relax the mind. Another way to induce calming vibes is to use a light and sound therapy clock like this one.
- Create total darkness and quiet. Use black-out curtains, and consider using an eye mask and ear plugs to block out sounds, light, and other distractions.
- Keep your room temperature cool. We sleep better when our room is on the cooler side, so set your thermostat to 65 – 70 degrees (or even a little cooler if preferred) for a better night’s sleep.
- Use your bed only for sleep or sex. Your bedroom should be designated for these two purposes only. So try to engage in all other activities in another area of your living space, and minimize watching TV and working in your bedroom as much as possible. Performing these tasks where you sleep confuses the brain and can work against creating that calm environment that promotes deep and restful sleep.
- Get outside for at least 20 minutes a day. The light from the sun enters your eyes and triggers your brain to release specific chemicals and hormones, like melatonin, that are vital to healthy sleep, mood, and aging.
- Have your last meal at least 2 – 3 hours before bedtime. Eating a heavy meal prior to bed can contribute to a bad night’s sleep and impedes the body’s overnight detoxification process.
- Ask your doctor about a melatonin supplement. Melatonin has been shown to help with falling asleep faster and improving sleep quality. Check with your doctor to see if it might benefit you.
- Drink a cup of Valerian root tea. Do you enjoy a cup of tea before bed? Valerian root has been used since ancient times to promote relaxation and restful sleep. You can find Valerian root tea in many natural stores. It’s also available in capsule and tincture form if tea isn’t your thing.
- Institute a Power Down Hour. Turn off all tech an hour before bed. If you must be on your device for some urgent reason, wear amber glasses, or use a filter or blue light blocking app, like f.lux.
- Do a brain dump. Write down your to dos for the next day and anything that’s causing you anxiety. Getting your thoughts down on paper and out of your head will free up your mind and energy to relax and move into a deep and restful sleep.
- Write down 3 (or more!) good things about your day. What went well? What made you smile? What are you grateful for? Who had a positive impact on your day? Noting the good things will help you end the day on a positive note, and set you up for a good night’s sleep.
- Use aromatherapy. Diffuse a calming scent like lavender in your bedroom, spritz it on your pillow, or try rubbing it on the bottoms of your feet to promote restful sleep.
- Take a shower, or a hot salt or aromatherapy bath 90 minutes before bed. Raising your body temperature before bed helps to induce sleep. A hot bath relaxes muscles and reduces physical tension. Add ½ – 1 cup Epsom salt and ½ – 1 cup baking soda to your bath for a sleep-inducing effect. Alternately, you can apply a hot water bottle to your tummy.
- Relax your muscles. Get a massage, stretch, do some light yoga, or have sex before bed to remove any tension from your body.
- Use a white noise machine or app. White noise, ocean sounds, and rain create a constant, calming sound that can help you sleep and block out noise.
- Dim the lights. An hour before bedtime, shut your blinds and turn down lights to signal to your body that it’s time for bed.
- Create a sleep routine. Your sleep routine should be tailored to what helps you relax, so we won’t tell you exactly what you should do. But we recommend taking an hour before bedtime to devote to your sleep routine. You might incorporate activities like dental hygiene/skincare, picking your outfit/accessories for the next day, packing lunches/computer bags, and doing a calming activity like reading, meditating, journaling, or listening to a relaxing podcast or music. Try to perform the activities you choose in the same order each night to train your brain that it’s time for bed.
- Turn your clock away from your bed. It’s natural to wake up several times during the night. But checking the time and worrying about how many hours you have left to sleep can prevent you from falling back into a restful sleep. So make a point to turn your clock away from you at bedtime and to avoid checking the time if you wake up/need to use the bathroom.
- Invest in a quality mattress, pillows, and sheets. You spend about a third of your life in bed, so make sure yours is as comfortable as possible. Splurge on a comfortable, supportive mattress and pillows, and invest in quality, high thread-count sheets. These are well worth the money and can make a big difference in your sleep quality.
Bonus Tip: If you don’t already work with a Health or Life Coach, you may want to consider working with one, or becoming one yourself. Working with a Health or Life Coach can help you improve your overall habits, by creating a personalized plan to meet your health and wellness goals.
Avoid These 8 Things Before Going to Sleep
We’ve talked about the dos of sleep and now it’s time to get into the don’ts. There are certain things it’s best to avoid if you want to fall asleep fast and stay asleep. These include:
- Electronics. Avoid using technology (TV, phones, computers, and the like) in the last hour before bed and keep them out of the bedroom. These all stimulate the brain, halt melatonin production, and interfere with sleep.
- Exercising 1-2 hours before bed. While daily exercise is great for improving sleep, doing so close to bedtime stimulates the body and can hurt sleep quality. So avoid anything vigorous before bed.
- Caffeine. Caffeine can interfere with restful sleep, so try not to drink it after noon. If you must have some, opt for decaf.
- Alcohol. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it’s known to interfere with your quality of sleep and should be avoided in the evening.
- Long naps. Sleeping during the day affects your body’s internal clock. If you must nap, keep it to less than 30 minutes and try not to make it a daily habit.
- Fluids close to bedtime. Avoid fluids 1-2 hours before bed to reduce the likelihood of having to wake up to use the bathroom during the night.
- Medications that interfere with sleep. These include sedatives (used to treat insomnia, but which ultimately lead to dependence and disruption of normal sleep rhythms), antihistamines, stimulants, cold meds, steroids, and headache medication containing caffeine.
- Lying in bed if you’re not tired. Only climb into bed when you’re drowsy enough to sleep. If you’re tossing and turning, get out of bed and find a relaxing activity to do until you’re truly ready for bed.
Remember: you spend over a third of your life sleeping, so you owe it to yourself to invest in getting the best sleep possible.
Help Yourself (And Others) Reach Their Sleep, Health, and Wellness Goals
If you want to improve not just your sleep but your overall health and be able to help others do the same, you might consider becoming a Health or Life Coach. Health and Life Coaches are trained to help people in key areas of their life including health, relationships, money, career, and spirituality, which can all impact the quality of your sleep as well.
Find out more about becoming a Health and Life Coach and what opportunities are available to you.