Improving Sleep: Why Quality Rest is Important for Health
It is hard to believe 2018 is more than half way over. Like most of us, when the New Year started, many of us made resolutions to create positive life changes that would benefit our health. We resolved to make healthy choices in what we ate, committed to 30 minutes of exercise three times a week and vowed to drink plenty of water. But honestly, how many of us made sleep a top priority for 2018? Many know sleep is important for overall health, but few create a plan to change and/or develop ways of improving sleep habits.
Why Sleep is Important for Health
Sleep plays a critical role in metabolism, memory, learning, immune function and other vital bodily functions with the connection being quite complex and not entirely understood. Some studies have shown that the quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on both learning and memory. Research results concluded sleep is essential for forming and consolidating memories, and it plays a central role in removing old ones and the creation of new neuronal connections.
Our immune system also can take a big hit if we don’t get adequate rest. When we sleep, our bodies regenerate and the immune system calms down. With insufficient sleep, inflammation flares up. Studies indicate that people who get less than six hours of sleep a nighthave higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more.
When it comes to our health, stress and sleep both can affect cardiovascular health. When people get adequate sleep and can reduce levels of stress, they can in turn have better control of their blood pressure.
Tips for Improving Sleep
Lack of quality sleep can turn any person — from a patient with advanced illness to a caregiver — into Oscar the Grouch who everyone avoids. Of course, on occasion, we have all been there before: Stress, family issues or a full gamut of worries can wreak havoc on our minds causing us to lose sleep. Nevertheless, better sleep is possible.
Here are some tips for improving sleep:
- Make your bedroom an environment conducive to sleep (check out the sidebar for more hints).
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as reading a book before bed or listening to soothing, meditative music.
- Stick to a sleep schedule.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and heavy meals in the evening.
- If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
Following these tips to improving sleep can help you keep tossing and turning nights to a minimum. If these tips don’t solve sleep issues for you or a loved one, please talk with your healthcare provider.
At Chapters Health System and its affiliates—Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Phoebe Ochman
Phoebe Ochman, Director of Corporate Communications for Chapters Health System, manages all content and communications for the not-for-profit organization.
Creating a Sleep Hygiene Habit
In the 1950s, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, noticed a strange pattern among his patients. He discovered it would take one of his patients a minimum of 21 days to get used to seeing their new face. And thus, the statement “it takes 21 days to form a new habit” was born. With that being said, it should take someone at least 21 days to make a sleep hygiene habit stick in order to sleep well on a regular basis.
There are quite a number of tips to create an ideal sleep hygiene habit, which can make quality sleep a reality rather than a fantasy.
- Keep distractions and gadgets out of sight.
Although electronic gadgets might help make our lives easier during the day, they can put a wrench into the quality of our sleep. Try turning off all of your gadgets an hour or two before you go to sleep. When you are getting ready for bed, you need to relax and wind down your mind, not stimulate it with sending emails, watching your favorite TV program or posting on Instagram. Add to the mix the following tidbit: televisions, computers, tablets and cell phones all have a backlit function, which can disrupt your body by not producing melatonin. Instead, make it your routine to relax with a good book or listen to soothing music.
- Create a comfortable bed oasis.
From pillows and comforters to comfortable sheets and other various sundry bed linens, all can make a difference in the quality of our sleep. Go ahead and spritz naturally calming scents like lavender or chamomile on your pillow, or use an aromatherapy diffuser. And if you find yourself waking up in the morning with aches and pains, you might want to think about purchasing a new mattress. In addition, it is important to not forget the temperature within your bedroom. Keeping the thermostat about 5° lower than your daytime set temperature can assist in getting you counting sheep that much faster. Reason? As you drift off and visit the sandman, your body temperature naturally decreases.
- Make your bedroom as dark as midnight.
It is a scientific fact that your body is programmed to sleep when it is dark. Light prevents the body from producing melatonin, which is a hormonal substance that naturally promotes sleep. According to experts, light can still be detected with eyes closed through your eyelids, and the body will not secrete melatonin. Hence, keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
A good start to sleep hygiene practice is dimming the lights as you prepare to hit the sack. You can also go a step further by throwing a washcloth over the digital display of your alarm clock, or merely just turning the face away from view. But if you need a guiding light should you need to get up in the middle of the night, a bathroom nightlight would be helpful.
Heavy drapes might also work if the morning rays or street lamps shine into your bedroom, or better still another option would be a sleep mask to block out unwanted light.
- Keep the noise level as low as possible.
You might not be able to prevent a dog from barking or a child from crying but for the most part, you can lower the noise level in your bedroom. If you like to have some sound, try a white noise machine or play soothing melodies that shut off automatically with a timer. And if you can’t avoid the noise emanating from outside your home, there are always earplugs to dampen unwanted sound.