We all know that each month (and week and day) have different “awarenesses.” March has several, but this week specifically is Sleep Awareness Week (March 11-17 this year).
I’ve written about sleep before, but it’s worth writing about again. Sleep is super important and one of my favorite past times. The theme for this year is “Begins with Sleep” (#YourDayBeginsWithSleep). Just the name expresses how important sleep is. Those nights where my mind races and I can’t fall asleep are the beginning of a bad day, but on those occasions where I get a thorough and relaxing night’s sleep….well, those days are amazing. I feel encouraged and motivated before I even get out of bed.
Eight hours of sleep is an average and varies depending on a person’s age and activity. According to sleepfoundation.org people from 18 years and up need between 7 and 9 hours. The younger you are, the more sleep is needed.
Our senses are what bring information to our brains, that means they can help our brain get ready for sleep. Get into your senses and let them guide you to a peaceful night. While researching, I was shocked to find information about food. It didn’t occur to me that food could inhibit or help sleep. It turns out; I was wrong. Turkey, eggs, chicken, fish, and nuts all have tryptophan in them, which can help release serotonin and that can help sleep, although it hasn’t been definitively proven that there is enough tryptophan to cause drowsiness. It’s probably obvious that drinking caffeine can get in the way of sleep. A study done in 2011 showed that adult Americans have on average three 12 ounce cups of caffeine a day. That’s a lot. A lot, a lot. I cut caffeine out of my diet, and although it was hard at first, I sleep much better and have more energy. If I do happen to have caffeine now, even early in the morning, I can’t sleep that night. Alcohol is another beverage that can harm sleep patterns. Although it’s a depressant and can make you feel drowsy, the sugars in it can eventually cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. Just as eating can affect your sleep, your sleep can affect your eating. People that don’t get the recommended amount of sleep tend to eat more fat-rich foods, simple carbohydrates, and fewer vegetables. Researchers also think that lack of sleep could be linked to diabetes.
I think most of us have heard that lavender can help relax people. Lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure. One study shows that people that smelled lavender before bed slept more deeply and felt better in the morning. It’s suggested to keep your room clean and fresh, a light scent you enjoy or no scent is good. Keeping your room and sheets clean will also help if allergies are a problem. It’ll keep those allergens away and hopefully prevent those middle of the night sneezing fits. Washing your bedding once a week in hot water is advised.
Sound has a large impact on our sleep. As a mother, those first few months of motherhood were exhausting, mostly because I never got a full night’s sleep. It isn’t just our babies that can disrupt our sleep, though. Cars, doors, tv, all those can rouse emotions without our realization. White noise (like fans, air purifier, or other ambient sounds) are encouraged, while TV is discouraged. White noise tends to stay at one sound level; TV can change volume and tone which can distract our sleep pattern.
I have the hardest time putting technology away when bedtime approaches, but it impacts my sleep. The sleepfoundation.org says, “The circadian rhythm seems to be especially sensitive to light with short wavelengths—in particular, blue light in the 460-nanometer range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This light, which is given off by electronics like computers and cell phones, and also by energy-efficient bulbs, has been shown to delay the release of melatonin.” For everyone that doesn’t understand all that scientific talk, it means the light can make our brains think it’s still daytime so it won’t turn off as readily. Keeping your curtains drawn will help promote better sleep, too. Your bedroom and the thought of it should make you feel comfortable and peaceful. It should be clean and clutter-free, and the colors should promote emotional peace. For most people, shades of blue cause relaxation, but you know your body better than anyone else. Surround yourself with relaxing, unstimulating colors.
Research has shown the optimal temperature for sleep is about 65F, that can vary for each person, but a room on the cooler side has shown to help sleep. Along with the feel of the room, the feel of your mattress and pillows can affect sleep. It’s a myth that the firmer the mattress, the better the sleep. Again, each person is different, so find what makes you the most comfortable and feel the most rested in the morning. The lifespan of mattresses and pillows isn’t down to a science, but it’s about eight years. If it’s uncomfortable, lumpy, or you feel your partner move, that might a sign it’s time for a new mattress. Soft, warm sheets are also important, and 19% of people also think crawling into a bed that was made helps them sleep better.
There are several illnesses that can disrupt sleep, talk to your doctor if you feel exhausted even after trying these different methods. It’s important to get help for anything that causes unrest.