The quality and quantity of your sleep are essential for your physical, emotional, and mental health. Are you making sleep a priority in your life? Or are you cutting back on sleep because you feel that other things are more important?
This article will motivate you to make sleep a priority in your life. I’ll also talk about the different types of sleep and some simple things you can do to improve your sleep quality.
Sleep is the ultimate form of rest and recovery. It is essential for our mental and physical health. It seems to be so underrated. Few people think of making it a priority in their life.
After a good night’s sleep you will feel great. You’ll feel that you can take on the world! You will focus better and face your challenges with confidence. A poor night’s sleep will leave you feeling tired, grumpy, and easily distracted. Even simple tasks can seem hard and take more time to finish. You may also make silly mistakes.
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The Effects of Not Getting Enough Sleep
There is a lot of useful information on how to improve your sleep. But this won’t help if you don’t have the motivation to do it. So I will start by covering the adverse effects on your body and mind that can occur from regularly sleeping less than 6 to 7 hours a night.
1. Increased Risk of Cancer and Dementia
Sleeping for less than 6 to 7 hours a night regularly, dramatically reduces your immune system. It doubles the risk of cancer. It increases your chances of getting Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. Margaret Thatcher, the UK prime minister in the 80s, used to thrive on 4 or 5 hours of sleep. She ended up getting dementia. Ronald Reagan did the same thing, and he got dementia as well.
2. Being Diagnosed as Pre-Diabetic
If you sleep less than 6 hours a night for just one week, you could be diagnosed as being pre-diabetic. This really surprised me! Just one week of poor sleep can affect your blood sugar so much that you could be mistakenly diagnosed as pre-diabetic.
3. Increased Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
A lack of sleep is not good for your heart. It increases the chances of your coronary arteries becoming blocked. This can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
4. Hormone Imbalances
Not getting enough sleep switches off certain hormones and increases other hormones. For example, when you lack sleep, the “I’m hungry” hormone increases, and the “I’m satisfied” hormone decreases. If you don’t sleep well, you’re going to feel hungry and eat more. That’s important if you are trying to lose weight. Also, you will lose lean muscle rather than fat. I believe the body wants to keep the fat so it can convert it into energy, if you continue to deprive yourself of sleep.
5. Increased Anxiety and Depression
Lack of sleep can dramatically affect your mental health. Just 3 nights of poor sleep can massively increase your anxiety. Sleep deprivation is also linked to depression.
Pretty much every organ in your body enjoys good quality sleep and is negatively affected by persistent poor sleep. If you don’t sleep enough, you are at risk of dying at a younger age or developing specific health problems. I hope you now realize how essential it is to make sleep a priority in your life.
The 3 Types of Sleep
Not all sleep is the same. During the night, we typically go through 3 phases of sleep.
1. Deep Sleep
Deep sleep is rejuvenating. It allows your body to heal. Your body requires deep sleep. Your brain will prioritize deep sleep over the other types of sleep. Therefore, deep sleep happens earlier in the night.
2. REM sleep
REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. REM sleep is your dream sleep. This type of sleep is vital for your mental health. It’s almost like your in-built therapy system. Your thoughts of the day are being processed and put into different places, for example, your long-term memory. It happens later in the night.
3. Light Sleep
Light sleep is somewhere between deep and REM sleep. Around 50% of your total sleep is light sleep.
There are a few different ways to track your sleep, and I have tried some of them. I have used a Fitbit tracker and sleep apps on my phone. Now, I use the Oura ring. The Oura ring is great because it tracks the different types of sleep, but also your heart rate and body temperature. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Oura ring, you can check it out here.
How to Improve Your Sleep.
So you’ve decided to make your sleep a priority. What next? Well, there is a lot of great content online on how to improve your sleep. Therefore, I will not go into too much detail here. I’m just going to share with you a few tips that have helped me personally.
1. Avoid Computers and Phones Before Going to Sleep
One thing I’ve noticed is that being on my computer or phone too late into the evening seems to affect my sleep. There are a couple of reasons for that.
The first is mental stimulation. When I work too late into the evening on my computer, I find that my mind is more active, and this affects the quality of my sleep.
The second is the light from computer or phone screens. This is known as blue light. It tricks your body into thinking it’s still daylight. There are many products, like glasses and screen filters, that you can use to reduce the blue light.
2. Relax 1 Hour Before Bed
It is always good to relax an hour before going to bed. The things that can help are meditation, physical relaxation, taking a bath, or reading. If you are reading, choose a book that doesn’t require too much thought or brain stimulation. I avoid personal development books and read something lighter.
3. Go to Sleep and Get Up at a Regular Time
If a good night’s sleep is a priority to you, this can be very helpful. But I’m not super strict about it. I’ll typically try to be in bed around 10:30pm and get up at around 6:00am. At weekends, I often go to bed later at 11:30pm and get up at 7:00 or 7:30am, particularly if I feel a need to catch up on sleep.
4. Think Positive Thoughts
I like to think positive thoughts or list things I’m grateful for just before going to sleep. I’ve found that this works very well for me. The thoughts you have when you go to sleep, are often the same thoughts you have when you wake up in the morning. They can also influence your dreams.
When you go to bed, focus on what you want, on your dreams, goals, and vision. Your unconscious mind will start looking for ways to achieve them. For example, you may come up with a dream that gives you the answer to your problem. Also, think about the things you are grateful for.
5. Do Not Eat Too Late
When you eat a large meal less than 2 hours before you go to sleep, your body will still be busy digesting food. As a result, your heart rate will be higher when you go to sleep. And to get quality deep sleep, you need your heart rate to be lower, especially during the first 4 hours of the night. A lower heart rate increases the quality and quantity of your deep sleep which normally occurs earlier in the night.
6. Avoid Alcohol
Many people think that drinking some alcohol will help them get to sleep. It will help you initially. You might get some deep sleep, but you will get virtually no REM sleep. This means that your mental health will suffer. Your brain will not get the opportunity to process things and put them into long-term memory. I have also found that drinking alcohol before going to sleep increases my heart rate and body temperature.
To learn more about sleep, I highly recommend reading the book “Why We Sleep” by Dr. Matthew Walker.
If you would like to monitor your sleep, then I highly recommend the Oura ring. I use the Oura ring every night to track my sleep phases, heart rate, body temperature and the overall quality and quantity of my sleep. It’s been a game-changer for me.
I can now see the influence of working or eating late on my sleep. I can proactively work on improving my sleep and get accurate feedback the following morning.
The Oura ring will also tell you when you need to rest and take it easy. As it tracks your body temperature, it can also tell you when you’re coming down with an illness.
I hope I convinced you to make your sleep a priority. If you do that, you will certainly notice the benefits. Positive thinking is much harder when you’re doing it on less than 6 hours of sleep. So make sleep a priority and see how your mental health improves.
Your body will be grateful too, and your thoughts will naturally be more positive. It’s incredible how such a small thing like improving your sleep, can have a huge positive impact on your life.
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