Why You Need to Make Sleep a Number 1 Priority [Updated]
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 2/6/17 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.
You probably joke about being sleep deprived.
Maybe you’ve tried to get more sleep, but nothing seems to work.
As you age, you don’t actually need more sleep; however, older adults typically get less sleep than they need for optimal health.
A lack of sleep really does put you at a health deficit.
That’s because your body performs several important functions while you’re in sleep mode.
What happens while you sleep?
Your body goes through different cycles while you’re sleeping.
At this point, you’re in-between a state of wakefulness and sleep.
You can be easily roused and probably won’t feel as if you’ve slept.
Your body is in this phase of sleep for about half of the night.
As your heart rate drops and your blood pressure regulates, you’re giving your cardiovascular system a much-needed break.
During this deepest stage of sleep, blood flows to muscles and tissues are repaired.
You spend about 20% of your total night’s rest in this stage and it normally happens at the beginning of the night.
Your muscles relax to keep you from acting out your vivid dreams.
You spend another 20% of your total sleep time in this phase and it will happen during the second half of the night.
Hunger and appetite hormones are regulated during this time, as well.
Reasons why you aren’t sleeping
Here are some of the reasons you may not be getting a full night’s rest:
- Breathing problems. There are multiple factors at play here. Often, if someone snores loudly during sleep, the snoring will interrupt their breathing and prevent a sound sleep. Sleep apnea could be the cause for this interrupted sleep. This diagnosis requires the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to rectify the problem. In some cases, individuals might need a pacemaker to guarantee a consistent heartbeat, which improves breathing, and ultimately, sleep.
- Insomnia. Anxiety or a variety of health issues can contribute to an inability to sleep.
- Aging. As you get older, the likelihood of developing sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome increases.
- Pain. Painful conditions such as arthritis can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, too.
- Frequent urination. An overactive bladder greatly interrupts sleep.
- Sleep timing. As you age, your body’s internal clock changes. Experts call this “advance sleep phase syndrome.” It activates your internal clock to go to bed earlier, and as a result, wake up earlier. If you ignore this clock and stay up late, you’ll probably get up earlier and earlier, and experience sleep deprivation as a result.
How to get more sleep
Here are some actionable tips for getting more zzz’s.
- Set your alarm. Set your alarm for the same time every morning and commit to getting up at that time. Getting your body into a consistent rhythm every day will help you get to sleep at night.
- Tweak when you eat and drink. Try to eat your meals at the same time every day. Don’t drink too much before bedtime to avoid bathroom trips. Stay away from stimulating activities, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or caffeine or exercising.
- Get your Vitamin D. Daylight has a significant impact on your sleep, as it regulates your sleeping and waking cycle. If you can, get outside every day and soak in the sun for a few minutes.
- Check your medications. Visit your doctor and talk about the effect your medications are having on your sleep. Consider adjusting the dosage or time of dose to help you sleep better.
- Follow a ritual. Before bedtime, do the same activities to give your body the signal that it’s time to wind it down. Some things you could do include showering, listening to soft music, reading a book or doing gentle stretches. Avoid watching TV or looking at an electronic screen, as these are stimulating activities.
- Be active. During the day, the activities you do can actually help you sleep better. Daily exercise will invigorate your body, but avoid doing any activity too close to bedtime.
The final word on sleep
If you’re being seriously affected by a lack of sleep, visit your physician to get to the root of the problem.
A few simple changes in diet, sleeping habits or medication could make all the difference.
For information about your health insurance needs, contact InsureOne Benefits today!
Do you have bad habits that are keeping you from getting enough restorative rest?