Happy Self-awareness month! Organizers of this celebration designed it to help people advocate for their own needs and develop strengthened habits of self-care & self-compassion. Some people believe that taking care of themselves means maintaining a morning routine to stay disciplined and motivated throughout the day, while others may feel self-care is better demonstrated by time spent in nature or keeping up a workout routine. Although there are no specific instructions for how to take the best care of yourself, there are many ways in which you can celebrate your grand existence this month. Self-awareness can be achieved through identifying the positive changes you wish to see in yourself, seeking support from others to move towards those affirmative thoughts, and re-working old habits to suit you and your lifestyle best.
Sleep is actually one of the most important ways to improve your overall wellness. Just as we require food and water to thrive, we also require adequate amounts of sleep. In fact, we need sleep so much that we spend approximately one third of our lives doing it according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Sleep aids with many essential functions including energy conservation, cellular restoration, brain function, alertness and immunity, making it necessary for a magnitude of the body’s fundamental duties and maintaining long-term health.
Adequate sleep is essential at any stage in life, though the amount of sleep you need as you age varies. The below guidelines from the Sleep Foundation serve as a general directive for how much sleep you require daily, though it is suggested that the ideal exact amount of sleep can vary person to person.
- 0 - 3 months: 14 to 17 hours of sleep a night
- 4 - 11 months: 12 to 15 hours of sleep a night
- 1 - 2 years: 11 to 14 hours of sleep a night
- 3 - 5 years: 10 to 13 hours of sleep a night
- 6 - 13 years: 9 to 11 hours of sleep a night
- 14 - 17 years: 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night
- 18 - 25 years: 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night
- 26 - 64 years: 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night
- 65+ years: 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night
Although these guidelines serve as an important rule-of-thumb, It is important to monitor your daily activities, and take your overall health, and typical sleeping patterns into account when deciding how much sleep you personally require. There are many outside factors that can also affect a person's optimal sleep requirements such as traumatic events, stress or PTSD. A traumatic experience, for example, can overstimulate the brain causing it to release a heightened amount of adrenaline, making it more likely to experience sleeping difficulties.
As we learn more about the importance of sleep we have discovered that certain diseases and medical conditions have been linked to inadequate sleep. Among these maladies are obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, poor mental health, and in some cases, premature death. Lacking the appropriate amount of sleep can result in a major decline in your overall health, impaired memory, lack of alertness, fatigue, stress and even premature aging. The ability to operate is impeded greatly the longer we go without sleep, as the body may begin to develop more severe issues such as mania, high blood pressure, depression, obesity, reduced immune function and increased risk for heart attacks.
If you are experiencing difficulties sleeping, falling asleep, or maintaining a sleep schedule, here are a few suggestions that may help you get back on track and catch those Zzz’s.
1- Relax before you rest
Prepare for a goodnight’s sleep by relaxing your mind, body and soul. Sip warm tea, snuggle up with a book, or treat yourself to a soothing massage. A massage can actually improve and even help eliminate sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
2- Sleep schedule matters
Aim to maintain a routine sleep schedule. It can be highly beneficial to have your body adjust to a regulated wake up & bedtime routine.
3- Get comfortable
If you’re going to lay down somewhere for 8+ hours, you should make it comfortable. Investing in a supportive mattress and cozy blankets can make the world of difference in allowing your body to settle in for a valuable rest.
4- Minimize distractions and disruptions
Reduce external noise, light, and artificial light from your bedroom. Your sleeping space should be a quiet and relaxing place to calmly rest in.
Reduce your blue light exposure by disconnecting from your electronic devices at least two hours before heading to bed. Blue light, emitted from many electronic devices, tricks our brains into thinking it is still day time by affecting our circadian rhythm.
6- Eliminate caffeine and alcohol
These substances stimulate the nervous system and make it difficult for the body to naturally relax.
7- Get active
Managing a proper amount of physical activity during the day, can lead to a better night's rest as your body will have used up more energy and require a deep rest to recharge.
8- Skip those sugary midnight snacks
Eating late at night can disrupt your body's natural rest mode, prolonging the time it takes you to fall asleep.
9- Assess any sleep disorders
Sleep apnea is one of many common conditions that can cause a poor night's sleep. If you have persistent problems sleeping, you should speak with a healthcare provider.
10- Reduce your fluid intake prior to bed
Sleeping on a full bladder may be affecting your sleep quality. Reducing liquids as you near your bedtime can help you avoid those late night trips to the washroom and enjoy a more fulfilling sleep.
Sleep is essential for a happy, healthy life and a vital component that is often overlooked. By providing yourself the luxury of adequate sleep each night, you can make all the difference in your daily performance, stress-levels, cognitive functions and health.
When you head to bed tonight, don’t forget that giving yourself a good night’s sleep will make tomorrow a better day. A sturdy sleep can lead to better mindfulness, and in return, great self-awareness. Sweet dreams!