Sleep. It seems like such a simple task, but for many people, it’s often difficult to achieve. A restless mind, an aching body, and just having too much on your plate can make getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep every night a real challenge.
If you’re spending your nights tossing and turning, there’s no doubt that you are feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. You’re probably feeling worn out, cranky, aren’t as focused or alert as you would like to be, and you probably hit a mid-afternoon slump that makes you want to crawl up in a ball and take a snooze.
Yes, sleep is extremely important for your overall physical and mental well-being.
Why Sleep is So Important
Sleep affects every mechanism in your body. During sleep, your body and mind has the chance to take a break, recharge, and strengthen itself. Here are just a few of the reasons why sleep is so crucial:
- Improved memory and learning. While you’re sleeping, your brain is able to commit the new information that it has acquired to memory via a process that is referred to as “memory consolidation”. Your brain literally stores what it has learned as memories during sleep.
- Increased alertness. Sleeping gives your central nervous system a much-needed break. While you’re asleep, this ever-important part of your body that plays a part in virtually all functions has a chance to rejuvenate itself, which makes you feel more alert and ready to take on whatever life brings your way.
- Weight management. It might come as a surprise, but if you aren’t getting enough sleep, the way your body processes and stores carbohydrates can actually be affected. It can also change the levels of hormones that manage your appetite. In short, not getting enough sleep could slow your metabolism and lead to weight gain.
- Heart health. Sleep is also important for your cardiovascular health. Several studies have found that people who suffer from sleep disorders are more prone to developing high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia).
- Stress levels. Your body is better able to manage cortisol (the stress hormone) levels when you sleep. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you’ll have an increased chance of suffering from heightened stress levels, which could further impact your overall health and well-being.
- Regulated mood. If you’ve ever found yourself highly irritable or short on patience when you’re tired, there’s a good reason: lack of sleep has a direct impact on your mood. If you aren’t getting enough of it, you’ll be more irritable, impatient, and just moody.
- Strengthened immune system. Your immune system – the system that’s responsible for fighting off illnesses – needs to have an opportunity to rest, and sleep gives it that opportunity. If you are sleep deprived, your immune system can be weakened, making you more susceptible to various types of illnesses.
Tips for Better Sleep
You might be thinking to yourself, “I want to take advantage of all the benefits sleep offers, but I just can’t seem to fall or stay asleep!” Whether it’s because you are suffering from aches and pains that prevent you from getting comfortable or you have too much on your mind, here are some tips that could help improve your sleep.
- Exercise! Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do to improve your sleep. Regular exercise can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. It can also improve your quality of sleep. You don’t have to commit to a stringent workout routine, either. Simply taking a brisk walk 20 minutes a day, going for a bike ride, or swimming could make a world of difference in regard to your sleep. Plus, you’ll just feel better mentally and physically, too.
- Cut back on caffeine. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages about 4 to 6 hours before your usual bedtime. If you find that you need a pick-me-up in the middle of the day, get up and move! A quick run or even a few rounds of jumping jacks can have the same effect as caffeine, as these exercises can increase the oxygen supply to your brain, making you feel more alert.
- Establish a bedtime. While on the topic, pick a bedtime – and stick to it. Experts recommend getting 8 hours of sleep a night to reap the full benefits it offers.
- Curb the electronics. Scrolling through social media, reading emails, and watching TV might seem like a great way to unwind, but these activities can actually stimulate your brain, making it harder to fall asleep. About an hour before bed, eliminate electronics. Instead, reach for a book, do some yoga, or take a hot bath.
- Create a welcoming sleep environment. Where you are sleeping can have a huge impact on the quality of sleep you are getting. Make sure your room is a cool, yet comfortable temperature. Use pillows that are supportive, yet don’t prop you up too much (that could cause aches and pains), and make sure that your room is dark. These simple adjustments could make a world of difference.
If you’ve tried making these adjustments and you’re still having trouble sleeping, or if you are suffering from chronic pain that is making it impossible to get comfortable, physical therapy could be the answer to better sleep. A physical therapist will assess your condition and develop a customized treatment plan that can help to ease your aches and pains, boost your activity levels, and help you get better sleep.
If you’re interested in learning more about how physical therapy can be used as a sleep aid, contact our office today! Our therapists will gladly discuss the benefits with you and help you reach your goal of getting a more restful night of sleep.