The Wellness Series: Sleep

Key Benefit Concepts Wellness

Sleep: the elusive activity that our body’s crave and our minds need to function properly day-to-day. In our Wellness Series, we’re getting real about sleep–the positives of sleep and the negative effects of not getting enough. If you are one of the many that have trouble sleeping, we’ve also outlined some tactics you can implement that will help calm your thoughts and body and help you make sleep a priority.

“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more.”
– Anonymous

The importance of sleep isn’t a well-kept secret, rather everyone knows that getting a certain number of hours of sleep per night is beneficial to your overall health. Furthermore, sleep provides your body with a reprieve from the stressors of day-to-day life and, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, those crucial hours of sleep will allow your cells and tissues to recover from the day. The American Sleep Association recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for an adult and according to both the National Sleep Foundation and the American Sleep Research Institute, more than half of Americans indicate they do not get a good night’s sleep regularly.

Negative Health Effects

There are numerous negative effects pertaining to health that occur when one does not get the sleep they need. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults who reported sleeping less than 7 hours during a 24-hour period were more likely to report obesity, physical inactivity, and being current smokers. In addition, these ten chronic conditions were more likely to be reported:

Heart Attack Coronary Heart Disease
Stroke Asthma
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary
Arthritis Depression
Chronic Kidney Disease Diabetes

Negative Effects in Daily Life

Lack of sleep may also cause problems for functioning in daily tasks. Webmd indicates that not getting enough sleep will affect cognitive processes, such as attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. All of these processes can make executing and completing daily tasks like driving, learning, and focusing at work extremely difficult.

Prioritizing Sleep

A large reason people do not get enough sleep is because of their inability or unwillingness to make sleep a priority. After all, there are only so many hours in the day, and with all the items that need to be finished, it is tempting to put off another hour of sleep. However, the only way to improve your overall functionality and health is to intentionally prioritize sleeping.

According to two sources: the National Sleep Foundation, and Positive Psychology which references Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (a group program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s), we’ve outlined a number of ways below that can help you relax and put sleep first.

  • Have a Sleep Schedule: Keeping the same wake times and bedtime routines during the week and weekend can help regulate your body’s internal sleep clock.
  • Have a Relaxing Bedtime Routine: avoid blue light from phones, tablets, and computers. Instead, read a book for an hour prior to sleeping. This will help your body smoothly transition into sleep-mode.
  • MBSR – Body Scan: Lying on your back with eyes closed, focus on the evenness of your breathing. Additionally, practice awareness, starting from the top of your head, moving down your neck, shoulders, torso, arms, hands, legs, and finally, to your feet. This type of mindfulness technique will help relax your body and mind.
  • Object Meditation: hold an object that is of value or interests you. Use your senses to focus on all aspects of it, such as shape, color, size, texture, smell, or sounds it makes. This will help calm your mind.

These are only a few steps you can take to improve your relationship with sleep. If you are still having difficulty falling asleep, sleeping through the night, or feeling well-rested, it is recommended to speak with a doctor or to find a sleep professional. Ultimately, making sleep a necessity will significantly improve your daily life and overall health.