Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our health. It helps us recover from a long, stressful day, replenishing our cognitive and physical stores. We all need slightly different amounts, ranging from 6 to 9 hours on average, but if we don’t get enough sleep repeatedly, we are asking for serious derailment of health and wellness.
We all know what it’s like to wake up after tossing and turning all night long. It feels like the day is interminable and we will wait forever to get back in bed. But, in addition to feeling tired, look at some of the choices that we might make during a day following poor sleep. Most likely, we will need more coffee to get going in the morning, perhaps leading us to skip breakfast. Maybe breakfast will come later in the morning in the shape of a doughnut or pastry accompanied by more caffeine. Lunch may be missed, due to low cognitive processes and the same workload, or will find us famished after our plunge from the sugary snack earlier. So, overindulgence could be likely, keeping us on the path to having even less energy for the rest of our long day as our bodies struggle to devote much-needed energy to digestion. If we are somehow able to decompress later in the afternoon by having a nice walk or a short nap, we are the lucky ones. We may be able to reverse the spiral. But for many of us, the day is just too busy and obligations call, making the prospect of getting in a workout ever more daunting in our exhausted state. Well, on to dinner, be it take-out or quickly prepared comfort food. To top it all off, poor choices all day may come to roost in the form of digestive discomfort late at night, making it likely to interrupt our sleep again tonight. Whew, I’m tired just thinking about it!
Now, let’s look at the pattern. When we’re tired, it’s common to take the easier route. More coffee, no breakfast, sugary and comfort foods, little exercise. Unfortunately, we often cave to our inner comfort side when we are less than awake. It’s easy to go with the flow and not put in the effort when we can’t think straight and our bodies are tired. Yikes, that doesn’t work well for overall health and fitness.
So, what should we do? The answer is simple, but not always easy to follow. We should take care not to drink or eat too much caffeine during the day, as this will keep our bodies awake long into the night. Get a good exercise session in, preferably outdoors because the fresh air and exercise combine to promote wonderful sleep. And last, but certainly not least, come up with a healthy bedtime routine that may include reading a light novel, shutting off our computers an hour before sleep, having a cup of bedtime caffeine-free tea, and snuggling with our favorite companion. All of these activities will be sure to help us usher in a calming feeling and will promote good quality sleep.
There are many more ideas out there, so feel free to try some or all of these or other techniques and see how tomorrow finds you ready to make healthy choices. Here’s to a healthy, well-rested tomorrow!