By Amy Robinson Ikelheimer, Ph.D. Health Psychologist, Behavioral Health Specialist
Modern culture minimizes the important role sleep plays in overall wellness. Sleep is often viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity. Neglecting sleep can even be encouraged by those who believe that fewer hours of sleep mean more productive hours. The truth is, sleep is just as important to health as diet and exercise. Finding the right balance of these elements is essential to creating a solid foundation for your body. Intuitively, we know this. We know we feel better when we are doing these things, but for various reasons we just don’t. Many times it takes a major life event, like an illness, to wake us up and encourage us to find a balance of healthy diet, sleep and exercise.
So why is lack of sleep such a problem?
Lack of sleep negatively impacts many areas of life. Not only is a person likely to feel tired, lethargic and run down, poor sleep can have a negative impact on mood, leaving people feeling more depressed, irritable and anxious than usual. Difficulty concentrating, decreased motivation, compromised immune system and weight gain due to physiological and behavioral factors are common among those who habitually neglect sleep. Unfortunately, the negative impact of poor sleep can feed into a vicious cycle—not being able to sleep is stressful and the experience of stress can be a primary factor disturbing sleep.
So what can I do?
The first step on the road to achieving quality sleep is to identify bad sleep patterns. This can be done by monitoring sleep over the course of several days or weeks. After problem areas are identified, you can begin to develop more helpful habits to help achieve the level of quality sleep your body needs and deserves.
Tips for achieving quality sleep:
- Wake up at the same time every day
- Skip naps
- Exercise daily
- Don’t be in bed when you’re not sleeping
- Make the bedroom comfortable (temperature, light, noise, etc.)
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon
- Find ways mentally and physically relax
- Manage stress
- Don’t allow yourself to worry, plan, or organize in bed
- Limit alcohol consumption, especially late at night
- Skip late night snacks
About the Author
Amy is a Health Psychologists and Behavioral Health Specialists. She devotes much of her time to sleep medicine and treating individuals who suffer with insomnia. Amy uses well researched short-term Cognitive-Behavioral interventions to help adults cope with and better manage chronic medical conditions and symptoms. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, insomnia, chronic pain, headache, GI distress, cardiac, allergy, respiratory issues, coping with side effects of medications and other symptoms that interfere with daily functioning.
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