In the pursuit of our activities we may sacrifice sleep. We are so busy these days that it is easy to do. Work, kids, and chores can add up. In the popular show hosted by Maria Kondo, there are often disagreements with couples because of the extra work keeping the house clean is perceived to add. Research is showing the importance of sleep, and the impact of lack of sleep on your mental health.
I was recently diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea which means I was not getting a good night’s sleep. Every day I arose exhausted. Now with a CPAP machine, I am getting excellent sleep and feel refreshed. Now that I am on the machine, I realize how poorly I felt because insufficient restorative sleep. It is the same with all our busy lives. We don’t know how exhausted we are until we stop.
As government employees we are knowledge workers. That is, we work with our brains. If we are exhausted how can we perform well, make good decisions, and be happy? We need to be kind to ourselves and ensure we get a good night’s sleep.
Did you know? Good sleep is essential to mental and physical health. Sleep is as important as air and food. It rejuvenates the body and brain and releases tension.
Twelve strategies for good quality sleep
- Sleep as long as you need to feel rested. Seven to nine hours a night is recommended for most adults. Don’t cut back on sleep when you’re busy. Your body and mind actually need more sleep than usual to help you manage stress.
- Go to sleep at about the same time every night. Sleep specialists recommend that you fall asleep by 10 p.m. at the latest to rejuvenate your body and maximize your concentration, memory and ability to learn. Consistency is the key.
- Avoid exercising two to three hours before bed.
- Get natural sunlight (around 30 minutes each day, preferably at noon) or use a full-spectrum lamp.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants five hours before bed, alcoholic drinks just before going to bed and medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep.
- Avoid large meals at night and avoid going to bed hungry. Have a light, non-spicy snack if hungry.
- Nap only if it does not interfere with your regular sleep schedule. (Ideally limit your naps to 15 to 20 minutes.)
- Take time to relax before bed. Try a relaxation exercise, listen to soothing music or have a warm bath.
- Make your bedroom a good sleeping environment, with a comfortable mattress and pillow and a quiet, cool and dark room. If needed, remove distractions from your bedroom, such as a pet, television or computer. If reading helps you fall asleep, make sure you are using a low-wattage bulb to avoid bright light before bed.
- Write down persistent thoughts to release your mind and to encourage a peaceful sleep.
- Sleep on your side and maintain a healthy weight to manage snoring and prevent sleep apnea.
- Talk to your doctor if your sleep difficulties last more than a few weeks. Some sleep difficulties require medical treatment.
Lack of sleep can lead to emotional, psychological and physiological problems, such as depression, anxiety and heart problems.
Sleep is an important part of mental health that is often overlooked, especially during times of stress. Ask yourself whether you cut short the amount of sleep you get when you’re busy.