Need for Sleep

Does anyone else think that it is extremely unfair that naptime is not built into our day as adults?

What if I told you that we would perform our duties better if we allow ourselves that standard 20-minute power nap sometime during the mid-day… would you believe me?

Just when I start to underplay the importance of sleep, I found myself puzzled by some recent events.  I was having a very difficult time processing the issue and all of a sudden felt this strong urge to sleep. I honored my body’s need and napped, and as soon as I woke up, I automatically knew the answer to my confusion.

Numerous research out there discusses the importance of sleep for our overall well being and shows that our brain probably does some of its best work during sleep.  Despite all these research, we continue to tell ourselves that we do not need much sleep to perform well, that we are fine and our lives too busy to get enough rest

Let’s talk about how sleep helps with our overall health.

Healthfinder.gov discusses that a major benefit of getting enough sleep is an improved immune system — where one would get sick less often, and a decreased risk of serious health issues. Better sleep also helps to manage weight, and overall help with concentration and focus.

Not getting enough sleep has a tremendous impact on one’s overall emotional and mental health. When assessing for mental health diagnosis, one of the first discussions I find myself having is about the sleep cycle. Not getting enough sleep plays a part in creating instability in one’s overall health which in turn decreases one’s ability to manage (at times) even the basic stressors of daily life.  Some examples of increased stressors may include forgetting where you left your keys to something as life-threatening as accidents caused by sleepiness or drowsiness.

Sometimes we say that maybe we are not sleeping well because of how stressed we are over a certain situation.  There may be some merit to that argument, and certainly, temporary events may cut into our normal bedtime. But if this happens regularly, – chances are that we already had bought into the myth that rest/sleep is not important for us to function well or perhaps we can make up those hours afterward.

We need to make specific changes for improvements- especially when it comes to taking better care of our health.

  1.     Evaluate your beliefs.

What were you taught about the sleep cycle? Do you believe that as adults we do not need as much sleep as we used to before? We may not need as many hours as a baby needs, but our brain continues to process and grow with new information.  How unfair is it that we are feeding it new information yet not giving it a fair chance to retain the details?

  1.     Evaluate your schedule.

Do you consume products that are about giving you “energy”- especially near bedtime? Do you stick to a schedule or sleep whenever you feel sleepy? Are you checking your email in the middle of the night?  Humans are creatures of habit; we need consistency and clarity to streamline our lives as much as possible. Sleep is no different. Our bodies get used a certain rhythm. Why else do we have such a difficult time after daylight savings change?

  1.     Exercise.

Any exercise is better than no exercise. I wholeheartedly believe that but I would be lying if I say that all exercise can be done anytime. There are some exercises that would benefit you by increasing energy, which may be best practiced in the morning, while there are exercises that help you relax your body and get you ready to rest for the night.

  1.     Self-care.

Relaxation and allowing yourself the chance to “let go” helps manage our everyday stressors. Practicing meditation and deep breathing allows one to become more centered and create enough space needed to sometimes find solutions to problems more quickly and efficiently.

  1.     Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, can actually help you identify and address the thoughts and behaviors creating insomnia for you and replace with healthy habits that promote the adequate amount of sleep, therefore enhancing your overall health.

These are some steps you can take to start regulating your sleep cycle but sometimes some factors feel beyond your control.  If you find yourself needing some extra support, do not hesitate to contact your medical provider and your mental health professional.

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