Sleep: The Cinderella of Wellness

Our society is in denial. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that we can survive, and possibly thrive, on very little sleep. Even people who otherwise take good care of their health give sleep short shrift. Many believe that sleep is not really that important to good health, and that cheating sleep to get a few more things done is a worthwhile trade off. Some even see it as a badge of honor, bragging about how little sleep they can function on. Thus, sleep has become the Cinderella of wellness, unjustly neglected in our busy world.

Risks of Sleep Deprivation

This is a misguided and perhaps dangerous phenomenon. In reality, chronic lack of sleep has been linked to lower work productivity, automobile accidents, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and more. A recently released poll by the National Sleep Foundation indicated that more than 30% of respondents said their quality of life was diminished by not getting enough sleep. Two thirds of those surveyed said that lack of sleep impacts their ability to do everyday activities.

Are You Sleep Deprived?

Sleep experts consistently recommend that adults get 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night. The American Academy of Sleep has identified the following as signs that you may need more sleep:

  • You're dependent on an alarm clock.
  • You're drowsy when driving.
  • You're attached to the coffee pot.
  • You're making mistakes.
  • You're forgetful.
  • You're cranky, snippy, and irritable.
  • You're frequently getting sick.

How to Improve Your Sleep

Here are few tips on how to get a better night’s sleep:

  • Develop a bedtime routine. Include relaxing rituals such as taking a warm bath or reading. This will train your body to ready itself for sleeping.
  • Keep a regular schedule. Get up at the same time every morning, including non-work days. Get a full night's sleep on a regular basis. This will help you to sleep more easily.
  • Create a sleep enhancing environment in your bedroom. Keep your room quiet, dark, and a little bit cool. Be sure that your mattress, pillows, and linens are comfortable. Remove sleep distractions such as televisions, computers, and exercise equipment. Do not work or study in your bedroom; your bedroom should be associated with sleep.
  • Try to get let go of or deal with things that make you worry at bedtime. Prayer, meditation, reading, practicing relaxing breathing, and listening to soft music can all be helpful.
  • If you are not asleep after 20 – 30 minutes, go to another room. Sit quietly, do something relaxing. When you feel sleepy, go back to bed.

Sleeping (or not sleeping) is a habit, so expect that it may take a little while and a focused attempt to improve your sleeping habits. But the benefits are well worth the effort.

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Source: Michele Guerra, MS, CHES, Director, Campus Wellbeing Services