There are very few problems that cannot be remedied with a good night’s rest.
Absolutely vital to our health, sleep allows our bodies to recharge, recover, and thrive. Getting your eight hours of sleep per night can help you maintain a positive mindset, better manage stress, reduce inflammation, improve cognitive function, regulate metabolism, and ward off illness.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 50 to 70 million American adults suffer from some type of sleep or wakefulness disorder.
When it comes to staying healthy, your immune systen cannot properly defend itself against viruses and dangerous pathogens without adequate rest. While you sleep, your immune system creates and releases cytokines, an important protein essential for good sleep.
When your body is introduced to inflammation, stress, or infection, it needs an increased amount of certain cytokines in order to create an effective immune response and keep you healthy.
But when chronically sleep deprived, the body will likely experience decreased production of these protective cytokines, leaving you more susceptible to illness. Some studies even show the flu vaccine to be less effective in individuals struggling with chronic sleep disorders, like insomnia.
Amidst the current pandemic, getting ample sleep has never been more important. But since this lockdown started, many people have found it much harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. The widespread fear, anxiety, and stress caused by the current situation has undoubtedly left many of us tossing and turning throughout most of the night.
In a recent coronavirus sleep survey of 1,014 American adults conducted by Sleep Standards, 76.8 percent of participants reported that the pandemic has affected their sleep, and 58 percent reported sleeping at least one hour less per night.
This worrisome side effect of the current global pandemic is a totally normal response, since we are dealing with an unprecedented situation. We are only human after all! But chronic lack of sleep and increased anxiety can lead to much more than a weak immune system, and side effects include a long list of health concerns.
The good news when it comes to our current sleep troubles is that there are many steps we can take to get a better night’s sleep, without relying on pharmaceutical drugs.
Here are some natural tips to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, as well as help you keep your immune defenses high.
Many experts recommend eliminating all screens at least two hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted from electronics has been shown to reduce melatonin levels in the body, which is an essential hormone required for healthy sleep. This is because when blue light is emitted from your phone or TV, it essentially tricks your brain into believing it’s still daytime. This makes it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Whether you’re sitting on your porch or taking a safe walk around the park, getting more daylight can help you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. Your body naturally has its own internal clock that is largely responsible for healthy brain function, hormone balance, and sleep quality. By getting more vitamin D during the day, it will help keep your natural rhythm balanced and send your brain signals when it’s time to hit the sack.
It’s normal to want to be “in the know” with the latest pandemic news across the world. But with many news outlets focusing largely on fear and anxiety-inducing statistics, it may be better to limit your news and media exposure, especially close to bedtime. If you’re feeling particularly sensitive or stressed during this time, try setting a limit to social media and news exposure.
As tempting as it may be to watch around-the-clock coverage, there is often much misinformation and ‘shock headlines’ that only serve to worsen your insomnia later in the evening. In other words, try to become more mindful of the information you are intaking throughout the day. If it’s feeding your anxiety, it may be time to try another approach!
Although the overall benefits of caffeine are still largely debated, we can all agree that avoiding that big cup of coffee late in the evening is a positive idea at the moment. Caffeine may help enhance focus and boost energy, but since it also stimulates your nervous system, it can also make you feel jittery and affect your ability to fall asleep at night. Generally remaining in your body for about six to eight hours, try swapping caffeinated beverages for herbal teas or superfood lattes after around 3PM.
With many of us working from home for the first time, it may be difficult to set healthy boundaries when it comes to work spaces. However, turning your bedroom into an office may have some pretty counterproductive effects when it comes to your sleep schedule. By mentally and physically separating your sleep space from your work space, you’ll be better training your mind to separate these two parts of your life. If possible, designate a work space that is separate from your bedroom, so that your bedroom remains a place reserved for only calmness and relaxation.
If you find yourself tossing and turning at night and struggling to get through the day, it may not be a bad idea to make up a few of those lost hours of sleep with a power nap. Although this option may not fit into everyone’s schedule, the Sleep Foundation has found that two daily naps, lasting no more than 30 minutes each, may decrease stress and offset some of the immune system damage caused by sleep deprivation.
Sometimes when you’re feeling uneasy, you just have to sweat it out! Exercise can help you boost endorphins and feel more productive and positive. In a review of 29 different clinical studies, it was found that exercise consistently improved overall sleep quality and duration. Even though the gyms are still closed, it’s still possible to get a great workout from home! Try jogging outdoors, if social distancing allows for it, or try a free online workout program on YouTube!
A relaxing bedtime routine can ease tension and stress and send signals to your brain that it’s time to unwind and get ready for a good night’s rest. Sit back and relax with some candles, a glass of wine, a guided meditation, a good book, or a bubble bath with essential oils and epsom salts. Whatever it is that makes you feel at ease, try implementing it for at least 20 minutes before bedtime for a more restful slumber.
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