Sleep & Wellbeing
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker
Most people are aware that sleep is vital for overall functioning. A poor night’s sleep can impact our physical health, mental and emotional health, our daily lives and interactions with families and colleagues. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a weakened immune system (increased likelihood of getting sick and slower recovery time from illness), skin issues, increased appetite, decreased metabolism, and poor cognitive functioning. Additionally, some types of cancers have been associated with poor sleep! Sleep is the only activity that can deliver so many benefits with so little effort…for free! “Sleep hygiene” is the term used to describe everything about sleep habits, including our ability to fall asleep easier, stay asleep, and get back to sleep if we awaken during the night. As sleep hygiene improves, we often find that our health and productivity improves. In fact, we may find that we actually get more done during the day than when we were lacking sleep.
When I teach sleep hygiene, I often start with discussing the enemies of sleep. There are many! Inconsistent times of sleep is one of the biggest problems I see with my clients. Our bodies function best when we have a similar bedtime and wake up time, seven days of the week. This is not always possible given our busy lives, kids, and varying work schedules, but making some small changes in getting a little more consistency might help. Napping is another area of concern. A healthy nap of 30 minutes or less can serve its purpose. We want to be careful, however, that we do not nap for longer than half an hour, because that is when we are at greater risk of getting into deep sleep followed by REM sleep. We don’t want either of those stages of sleep during a nap, because that will often interfere with our ability to sleep well that night when we really want to sleep. Any sleeping we do during the day is often subtracted from the total amount of sleep that we will get at night. Napping too close to bedtime is another common mistake. If you don’t need a nap, don’t take a nap. Keeping all our sleep in one chunk of time during our day, ideally at night, is often the best recommendation. The final area of concern regarding sleep is caffeine. For most people, caffeine serves as a stimulant which wakes us up. We want to be careful to limit caffeine intake to the first half of our day. Caffeine too close to bedtime can lead to difficulty falling asleep and poor quality of sleep overall. Once you start making some small changes to your sleep routines, you may notice some amazing benefits to your overall health and wellbeing.
By: J. Joseph Fanska
LPC, MA, C-DBT