It doesn't matter if you're a night owl or an early bird, we all need to sleep at some point during the 24 hours in a day. But with busy schedules and distractions like social media or streaming TV, it's easy to stay up late and sacrifice some much-needed shut-eye.
While it doesn't seem like a big deal, getting enough quality sleep is one of the most important factors when it comes to mental health and general well-being.
Sometimes, sleep issues are a symptom of existing mental health conditions. But in many cases, not getting enough sleep can actually cause or aggravate issues like anxiety. You are 4 times more likely to develop major depression if you're sleep deprived.
It can also impact your physical health. Studies are linking insufficient sleep to problems with weight and metabolism, decreased immunity and more frequent colds, as well as heart conditions.
When you're sleeping, the body repairs the tissues and cells that wear down after a day of function. Getting enough rest keeps your organs functioning like they should and helps prevent disease.
Better sleep also means better quality of life: it's linked to improved memory, productivity, and better decisions. Fewer mistakes and fatigue at work or school are great perks, too.
The CDC recommends that teens and adults get anywhere from 7 to 10 hours consecutively, depending on your age.
If you're having trouble falling asleep, there's things you can do.
Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day: your body will become accustomed to the schedule and naturally adjust. Even on weekends or days when you don't have anywhere to be, it's important to be consistent.
The light from a TV or device can make it a lot harder to fall asleep, because it's stimulating and essentially wakes you up. Instead, read a book or meditate for at least an hour before bedtime. Any calming activity that doesn't involve a screen is good.
Getting some exercise also helps. The more energy you burn in a day, the more likely you are to feel tired in the evening. It doesn't need to be anything hardcore if you're not a natural athlete. Taking a walk or doing a gentle yoga practice are examples of low-impact exercise with beneficial results.
Guided sleep exercises or white noise might be just what you need. Sometimes, it's difficult to calm your mind and body so you can rest. Focusing on something soothing that's external draws your attention away from ruminating thoughts and stress factors.
If you drink alcohol, you may want to reconsider that night cap. While drinking probably helps you fall asleep initially, it prevents you from maintaining a healthy sleep cycle because your blood sugar drops rapidly as the alcohol moves through your system.
Everyone has different needs when it comes to facilitating healthy sleep. Do what's right for you, and make it a priority in the name of self-care.