Not getting enough sleep can cause a myriad of symptoms. You’re probably familiar with most, if not all of them, with sleepiness being the most obvious. Irritability is another common symptom of not getting your zzz’s, however, lack of sleep could also be linked to more serious disorders like anxiety and depression.
Not being able to concentrate on tasks at hand can also subsequently result in an impaired cognitive ability. This might not sound like a big deal at first, but consider if you are operating heavy equipment – such as driving your car. The combination of flawed thinking and driving in busy traffic or along the highway is not a good combination!
Those who are sleep deprived also can suffer from poor judgment, confusion, and even hallucinations. Lack of sleep can even cause a person to be confused about the time, day or even year.
So far these symptoms have all had a cognitive element. Did you know that lack of sleep can even cause physical symptoms such as achiness and general discomfort? Some can also experience gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and diarrhea.
The following tips are just a few of the numerous ways that you can improve your sleep quality and quantity, also known as “sleep hygiene”.
Start with eliminating caffeine intake between 4-6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee and some colas, but don’t forget that other things such as tea, chocolate, and some pain relievers can also contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can work against you when you’re trying to get to sleep.
Exercising at the right time of day – earlier in the day – can help you to fall asleep faster and improve your sleep quality. However, because exercise can cause the body to become more alert due to secretion of the hormone cortisol, it is recommended that you hit the gym no less than 3 hours before bed.
Establish a pre-bedtime routine. Do something that relaxes you, such as reading, watching tv, or performing relaxation techniques. Such activities will calm your system and induce drowsiness. If you can’t stop thinking about work issues or personal problems, try keeping a pen and paper by your bed. Writing concerns down and getting them onto paper will help to get them off your mind and allow you to relax.
Be sure your bedroom is a haven for rest. Ensure your bedroom is quiet and dark. If ambient noises are bothersome, try earplugs or a white noise machine. Extraneous light can be a powerful signal to our brain that its time to wake up. To block out light, try room darkening shades or an eye mask. Lastly, try keeping computers, tv’s and work materials out of your rest space – these can all disrupt our association between restfulness and alertness.
Knowing the signs of sleep deprivation is the first step to getting a better night’s sleep. The next is taking action and keeping a routine with healthy sleep habits that can improve your health hygiene.
Here’s to your sleep health!