Getting better sleep consistently is as important for your health as good nutrition and exercise. Unfortunately, one in three Americans is chronically sleep deprived. Over time, the effects build until they cause disease such as cardiovascular disease, depression or diabetes and possibly become life threatening.
Poor sleep habits are often to blame. We stay up late completing a project or binge watching a new season of our favorite show. We get up early to get to work or get the kids to school. We over-stimulate ourselves throughout the day with caffeine, sugar, screentime and other activities.
What are the consequences of not getting enough sleep?
- Just a night or two of sleep deprivation produces groggy, unfocused and sluggish thinking.
- After one week of sleep deprivation, we face increased risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, stroke and more.
- Sleep deprivation causes over 100,000 drowsy driving auto accidents each year.
- Sleep deprivation also causes $31 billion in work-related accidents each year
The Importance of Sleep for Your Physical and Mental Health
Learning and practicing good “sleep hygiene” and teaching it to our children is essential for our health and the health of our families. While good sleep habits seem like common sense, putting them into practice takes commitment and planning.
Establish a bedtime routine that encourages quality sleep.
One hour before bedtime, put on some comfortable pajamas, stop using all electronics and avoid eating heavy meals or unhealthy snacks. Instead, practice a relaxation technique such as:
- Reading a book
- Deep breathing exercises
- Spending 10-15 minutes writing down the things you worry about so you can let go of them
- Taking a warm bath
Change up some of your daily habits to help your body and brain fall and stay asleep.
Get out into the sun—even in the winter. Avoid caffeine after noon and alcohol in the evenings. Aim to get cardiovascular exercise daily – this can be as simple as a brisk walk around the neighborhood after dinner.
Create a more “sleep-friendly” bedroom.
Make your bedroom as dark as possible and slightly cool. Use comfortable bedding to promote staying asleep instead of waking to rearrange. If outside noise (or total silence) bothers you, add some white noise to your bedroom by running a fan. Use your bed for sleeping, not as an office workroom, or place to watch television. By reserving your bed for sleep you teach your body to pair going to bed with falling asleep.
Still Can’t Sleep? A Mental Health Specialist Can Help!
For some, sleep remains an issue even when practicing good sleep hygiene. Multiple medical and mental health conditions as well as medications can inhibit sleep. If you consistently struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep, talk with a physician or another medical professional.
Sometimes sleeping difficulties are connected to stress, depression or anxiety. A mental health specialist can help you change your behaviors and manage the thoughts, feelings and emotions that can interfere with a good night’s sleep.
Dr. Ronald J. De Vries, PhD is a Fully Licensed Psychologist working at the Pine Rest Kalamazoo Clinic. He completed his internship training at the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center Outpatient Clinic approved by the American Psychological Association. Dr. DeVries earned his Bachelor in Psychology from Calvin College. He earned both his Master in Theology and his Doctoral in Clinical Psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary.
He works with adults and adolescents. His primary areas of expertise include depression (mood disorders), anxiety disorders, relationship issues, grief and loss, forgiveness, shame and guilt, recovery issues related to substance abuse, and adoption/foster families.