Most people understand the basic benefits of sleep. It can reduce stress, improve your mood, boost your immune system, and keep you both mentally and physically healthier. Still, according to the CDC, 1 in 3 Americans don’t get the sleep they need for a variety of reasons.
If you struggle with insomnia, treating that condition should be your top priority. But, if it’s your sleep habits that are keeping you from getting the rest you need, it’s time to make some changes.
Not only can poor sleep habits negatively impact you right away, but they can cause more long-term issues with your health, your behaviors, and the overall well-being of your future.
Let’s take a look at some of those issues and how prioritizing better sleep habits can help you stay healthier in the future.
Managing Your Mental Health
Multiple studies have found direct correlations between sleep and depression. Many people think that people who are diagnosed with depression sleep all the time. In some cases, that’s true. In others, sleep can evade those dealing with mental health conditions. Your brain needs to get enough sleep so it can rest, recover, and repair.
If you have depression and/or anxiety, however, it can be hard to fall asleep. With anxiety, your thoughts might race so much at night that it feels impossible to close your eyes and rest. Then, of course, you might feel anxious about not getting enough sleep, which can spiral out of control.
When it comes to depression, it’s not uncommon to feel extremely tired but to struggle with insomnia. It can cause a vicious cycle where you’re not sleeping because of your depression, and you’re more depressed because you’re not sleeping.
Getting to the underlying cause of your depression by talking to a therapist or counselor is one of the best things you can do. Depression and anxiety don’t go away on their own. Learning how to manage your symptoms with professional help can be a key in changing your sleep habits and getting the rest you need.
Resetting Your Circadian Rhythm
We live in a fast-paced society where it’s not uncommon to work long hours, stay up late, and not prioritize sleep, in general. Unfortunately, that kind of lifestyle can throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythm focuses on your sleep-wake cycle. It responds to light changes in the environment to tell your mind when you should be sleeping and when you should be awake. Sometimes, however, it can become out of sync due to:
- Overnight work shifts
- Mental or physical health conditions
- Poor nighttime habits
When your circadian rhythm is out of sync, you’ll find it harder to sleep at night, but you might feel completely ready to fall asleep at your desk at 3 p.m. Thankfully, there are things you can do to reset your circadian rhythm, including establishing a nighttime routine, going to bed at the same time each night, and avoiding electronic devices for at least an hour before bed. Additionally, no matter how tired you might be, don’t take naps during the day. You might get a little extra shut-eye to keep you going, but napping will make things more confusing for your circadian rhythm.
How to Prioritize Sleep Hygiene
No matter what’s keeping you from getting a good night’s rest, it’s pretty clear that prioritizing your sleep habits is important. So, what can you do to focus more on those habits and practice better sleep hygiene?
First, determine what’s keeping you from getting the rest you need. There are plenty of things that could be disturbing your sleep, including:
- Eating sugar before bed
- Skipping breakfast
- Noise/light exposure
- A cluttered environment
Prioritizing better sleep habits starts long before you climb into bed each day. If you want to improve your chances of getting a good night’s rest, try things like increasing your bright light exposure throughout the day, and reducing blue light exposure (from cell phones, tablets, and computers) at night.
Before bed, consider taking a melatonin supplement. It’s a hormone that helps to tell your brain when it’s time to go to sleep. Other tips include creating the right sleep environment in your bedroom by cleaning it and keeping it at a cool temperature and using your room only for sleeping. Don’t watch TV or work from your bed. When you do, you’re training your brain to think that’s what you should be doing, rather than sleeping.
Struggling with sleep deprivation can impact your professional development by causing you to lose focus. It can also affect relationships since it’s easier to feel irritable and angry. If you don’t prioritize healthy sleep habits and don’t get the rest you need, you could be putting your future at risk. Get help if needed, and make these changes now so you can start getting the right amount of healthy sleep each night.
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