Importance of Sleep
An important part of being able to wake up early and have a productive morning is actually the amount and quality of sleep you get the night before. Everyone knows how important sleep is for your health and quality of life, yet it seems very few people actually prioritize sleep nowadays. Though it is incredibly tempting to stay up an extra hour to watch another episode of a binge-worthy show on Netflix, is it really worth it when we look at how much sleep actually impacts your day to day life?
What Does Sleep Affect?
- Strength of your immune system: sleeping allows your immune system cells to rest in order to gain the strength they need to protect the body from illness and disease
- Appetite regulation and weight: getting a full night’s sleep will reduce the body’s production of ghrelin (appetite-boosting hormone) and increase the body’s production of leptin (hormone that triggers the feeling of being full)- the combination of which will help reduce mindless snacking and cravings for unhealthy food
- Cortisol (stress hormone) levels: more sleep means the body produces less cortisol; which puts less of a workload on the heart- this reduces the risk of conditions like high blood pressure or heart attack
- Brain function: cognition, concentration, productivity, problem-solving skills, and memory are all affected by a person’s sleep schedule and habits
- Mood: sleep can affect your mood simply because it dictates your energy levels- with proper sleep you are more likely to feel less stressed and overwhelmed, more optimistic and resilient!
- Emotional intelligence: The Journal of Sleep Research has found that inadequate sleep makes it more difficult for a person to recognize and identify with the emotions and expressions of other people
- Reaction time: according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, sleeping less than six hours slows your reaction time significantly, making it 4x more likely that you could get into a collision on the road
- Exercise performance: research suggests sleep deprivation can have major effects on many components of exercise performance including strength, power, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, mental capacity and muscle recovery. Therefore, if you want to strengthen your yoga practice or workouts, getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep will be in your best interest!
Since all of the above factors are affected by sleep, it is obvious that your sleep habits are contingent to starting the day off strong and productive. As the saying goes, your morning routine begins the evening before.
Tips for Healthy Sleep Habits
- Aim for a consistent wake-up time and bed time. Having a regular bedtime will help your body know when to anticipate sleep, which makes it easier to fall asleep at that time and less likely you will feel like dozing off at other times of the day. Having a regular bedtime and time to wake up will also help with time management to make sure you do get a full 7-8 hours of sleep. If you know your bedtime is `0pm, you will be more likely to hit the hay at that time rather than falling asleep in front of the TV late at night .
- On the topic of not falling asleep in front of the TV, it can be helpful to establish a consistent night time routine. This can again help the body recognize the pattern that occurs before sleep and anticipate sleep at night, and can also serve as a relaxing ritual wherein the body and mind wind down. In the hour or so leading up to your bedtime, it might be more relaxing to opt for dimmer lighting, do some gentle stretches, read a novel, spend time journaling- anything that will put you in a calm mental state closer to that of sleep.
- Practice good sleep hygiene at all times of the day. Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices surrounding your sleeping environment that are conducive to sleeping well and on a regular basis. It is important to consider how you treat your sleeping environment when you are not sleeping. The ideal is for your body to associate your bed and bedroom only with sleeping; which will make it easier to switch into “rest” mode at night. If you regularly spend time on your bed looking at your phone, snacking, watching TV, etc; your body will associate your bed area with these activities. Instead, try to adopt the rule of only using your bed for sleeping- instead you can to sit on the sofa for TV or social media.
- Consider the impact of technology on your sleep schedule and quality. Looking at the blue and green lights from the screens of devices can disrupt your brain’s understanding of when to sleep, and as such it is advisable to turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. This will not only improve your sleep, but also allow you a short period at the end of the day to reconnect with yourself and reflect on the day, which can be extremely beneficial for mental health and goal achievement. If it’s not possible for you to avoid technology before bed, there are alternative options which can reduce the effect of screen lighting on your brain.
- Many smartphones have the option to switch to “night mode”, which adjusts the contrast and reduces glare on the screen, and is meant to help reduce eye strain and reduce the disruption of sleep caused by blue light
- Another great option is wearing blue-light blocking glasses, which can be worn at night to filter out blue light from a TV, computer or phone screen
- To make it easier to wake up in the morning, consider keeping your alarm across the room from where you sleep, rather than right beside you. This will reduce your chances of hitting snooze or turning off the alarm, as it will force you to have to get out of bed to turn it off. This action of having to stand up will probably be enough to pull you out of a sleepy haze long enough to wake up and stay awake. As well, waking up to your alarm the first time it rings is very beneficial for your mindset. If you accomplish waking up to your alarm, which is literally your first task of the day, on the first try, it sends a message of accomplishment to your mind and subconscious, from the very start of your day.
- Another way to make the morning easier as your body is still waking up from a restful night’s sleep is to spend a few minutes the night before to prepare for your morning. This could involve laying out clothes for the morning, having a glass of water beside the bed, or having a book nearby to start the morning by reading. If you plan on going for a run or working out in the morning, it is a good idea to place your running shoes or gym bag right by the door so they are one of the first things you see after waking up. This can help to remind you of your goals in the morning; as well as save the time and effort it would take to set everything up for yourself in the morning.
Did this post inspire you to do something good for yourself in the morning? Keep your eye on the MYKW blog for more information about self-care in the morning in the coming weeks. Every week will feature a different topic related to self-care in the morning, as we prepare for the CAMH Sunrise Challenge, which asks participants to rise with the sun and do something positive for their mental health every day for a week from May 31st-June 6th 2021. The donations raised from the challenge will go toward the CAMH's research and treatment for individuals struggling with mental health. Find out more or donate to the MYKW team at: http://give.camh.ca/site/TR/Events/2021SunriseChallenge?team_id=4631&pg=team&fr_id=1180