Unbeknownst to most people, sleep quality affects their daily productivity. Many things affect it, and many ways to work towards restoring restful sleep. The first thing to do is look at our sleep quality and hygiene. Do you have a good sleep? Do you have a sleep hygiene routine that allows you to fall asleep rapidly and remain asleep all night? If not, read on for more sleep.
We all have examples of kiddos running around on little to no sleep and our misery from spending too much time in an exhausted state from lack of sleep. Sleep is a typical human behaviour; everyone sleeps for good reasons.
Sleep is essential to maximize our body's emotional, physical, and cognitive functioning, and it is a metabolic state controlled by homeostatic processes and the body's circadian rhythm (Begum & Puchakayala, 2022).
Sleep in itself occurs through 4 distinct phases that repeat through the night. The first 3 phases are non-rapid eye movement (NREM) states in which we transition from a wakeful to a sleepy state. Our heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow down, and our muscles relax with occasional twitches.
As we get into deeper sleep, our temperature drops and eye movements stop, and we finally experience our heartbeat and breathing slow down to their lowest levels. Our muscles relax, and it becomes challenging to awaken us. The final phase is the rapid eye movement (REM) phase which occurs about 90 minutes after we fall asleep.
Our eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. Our breathing becomes faster and more irregular, and our heart rate and blood pressure increase to near-waking levels. Most of our dreaming occurs during REM sleep. Our arm and leg muscles temporarily become paralyzed, preventing us from acting out our dreams.
Researchers found that sleep significantly impacts mental health and that improved sleep hygiene increases sleep quality, improving mental health outcomes. Of children, 20-30% are affected by sleep quality issues, which affects up to 80% of children with neurodevelopmental disorders (Gios et al., 2022; Peltz et al., 2019).
In adolescents, lack of sleep translates into academic, behavioral, and psychosocial functioning concerns (Begum & Puchakayala, 2022). Finally, adults are also at risk of sleep deprivation, leading them to experience an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, and other health consequences (Aldabal & Bahammam, 2011).
Assessing your sleep can improve its quality, and there are many ways to go about it. Your mental health provider can informally assess your sleep by rating the quantity, quality, and timing. You can do self-reports using sleep diaries and screening tools too. Finally, you can request your healthcare provider for a formal assessment, such as a sleep study at a sleep lab or home.
Good quality sleeps with proper sleep hygiene. You can improve the quality of your sleep by implementing the following best practices (Cortes, n.d.):
20-minute naps only
Short power naps can increase your alertness and improve your mood, while long naps can interfere with your normal sleep cycle.
Avoid napping if you can
If you did not get enough sleep last night, avoid napping, so it does not upset your regular sleeping schedule.
Go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time
Sticking to a regular schedule is the key to cultivating healthy sleep habits.
Get Vitamin D from the morning sun
Bask in natural sunlight first thing in the morning to wake yourself up!
Cannot fall asleep? Do something
If 20 minutes pass by and you are still awake, get up and do some light activity (like reading or meditating).
Don't work in bed
Use your bed strictly for sex and sleeping, and not working or eating!
Say NO alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine
Ditch the booze. We all know these are stimulants! At least 4-6 hours before bed.
Avoid eating before bed
If your body is working overtime when it should be resting, you probably won't sleep like a baby.
Stay away from screens
Blue light from our smart devices keeps us awake later, so practice being "tech-free" at least 2 hours before bed.
Ultimately, working toward more restful and quality sleep will provide a strong foundation for the day, improve your mental health, and reduce the risk of health concerns.
Aldabal, L., & Bahammam, A. (2011). Metabolic, Endocrine, and Immune Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, 5, 31–43. https://doi.org/10.2174/1874306401105010031
Begum, M., & Puchakayala, D. S. C. (2022). Study to determine the prevalence of poor sleep quality and its correlation with sleep hygiene practices among medical students. Asian Journal of Medical Sciences, 13(9), 151–155. https://doi.org/10.3126/ajms.v13i9.46175
Cortes, E. (n.d.). 30 Sleep hygiene checklist. 2.
Gios, T., Mecca, T. P., Akemi, J., Kataoka, L. E., & Lowenthal, R. (2022). Sleep habits and the relationship thereof with mental health indicators in childhood. Psicologia - Teoria e Prática, 24(1). https://doi.org/10.5935/1980-6906/ePTPHD13341.en