We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is important and highly recommended, but how does sleep impact us? What are the benefits of a good night’s sleep and what are the downsides of not getting enough sleep? Throughout this article we will break down what a good night of sleep looks like, the overall benefits, as well as the challenges created by not getting enough sleep.
Unfortunately, sleep is not a one size fits all situation. Everyone is different with their sleep requirements and challenges. For a good night’s sleep, there are various factors taken into consideration. First, how long does it take you to fall asleep, second; how many times do you wake up during the night, and finally; how long does it take you to fall asleep after each time waking up? While exploring these factors it is important to assess your sleep environment. Do you feel that you have to sleep with the TV on for the background sound, or when you wake up in the middle of the night do you immediately go on your phone? These two tools will hinder your sleep quality. According to Scott and Woods (2019), not only will the light on the phone disrupt your circadian rhythms but if you are to go on social media it can increase your anxiety making it more challenging to fall back to sleep. Circadian rhythms are a natural process that regulate our sleep and wake cycles. The circadian rhythms are what help us to feel tired at night and feel awake in the morning. The more time spent with screens on in the night will have more of an impact on the circadian rhythms which, in turn, will make it harder to sleep. If you struggle to fall asleep, or wake up a lot during the night, work on reducing your screen time before bed and in the middle of the night.
Next, we will go over some tools to support a good night’s sleep. As we discussed before, reduction of screen time before bed and during the night can be beneficial because the screens can disrupt the natural circadian rhythms. If you need the TV to fall asleep because you like the sound, try a sound machine or a white noise machine. The white noise will provide a sound but without the light from the TV screen which will allow you to get a more restful night’s sleep. If you use the TV to wind down before bed, try stretching or mediation. Stretching and mediation are natural tools to support not only your body in winding down but also your mind. Finally, if you wake up in the night and immediately check your phone try reaching for a book instead. Yes, the light needed to read the book might impact your sleep cycle, but it is a less impactful tool. Another option is to get up out of bed and go into another room if you are able. Removing yourself from the bedroom can remove the anxiety related to not being able to sleep. The same trick works if you are tossing and turning. The longer you stay in your bed unable to sleep, the more stress and anxiety will be associated with trying to sleep.
Now, why is sleep so important? Sleep and mental health are deeply intertwined. Sleep deprivation not only affects your mental health but also your psychological state. Sleep is a double-edged sword, the lack of sleep can impact your mental health, and those who suffer from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD are more likely to have trouble sleeping! For those of you who struggle with sleep, feel that you have tried all of the tools listed above, and just cannot get relief it might be connected to your mental health, it might be time talk to a mental health provider about your concerns.
Fun fact! Shining a flashlight behind your knee can help to reset your circadian rhythms. Check it out! Research was originally conducted back in the 1980’s, but more research has been conducted recently to test out the original theory.