While you are asleep and dreaming peacefully, your body is doing perhaps its most important work in maintaining good health. Numerous studies have come out in recent years emphasizing the importance of a good night’s sleep—that’s generally seven to nine hours a night for adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation—for overall health.
Sleep affects just about every area of your health. Lack of sleep can trigger anxiety, increase blood pressure, lead to a higher risk of obesity, impair brain function, make you more susceptible to diseases such as diabetes and deplete your immune system. Along with proper nutrition and regular exercise, getting enough sleep each night is a foundational healthy habit for vibrant health and wellness.
If you are in recovery, you know that maintaining optimal health is crucial for a successful life of sobriety. When you get the sleep you need each night, your body and mind are strong, and you can tackle each day reinvigorated and renewed. That can help you meet any challenges that come your way, as your judgement and focus won’t be clouded and you won’t be as negatively affected by stress. With this strength and fortitude, you are less likely to fall back into the habits that led to your substance abuse disorder.
The Secrets for Developing Healthy Sleep Habits
Unfortunately, not everyone can achieve their daily sleep goals. Sometimes the problem is caused by conditions such as insomnia, or medication for an illness. Other times, lack of sleep is due to poor lifestyle habits, which can include an improper diet, not enough physical activity or too many nights staying up late.
However, there are steps you can take to increase your sleep time. If you’re perpetually feeling tired and groggy in the mornings and can’t find the energy you need, stop hitting the snooze button and start getting proactive about cultivating healthy habits for sleep. Try the following ideas to see what works for you.
- Lighten up. The human body runs on circadian rhythms that govern our sleep patterns. This 24-hour internal body clock responds to light cues, which is why you should make your room as dark as possible at night, and then get a dose of early morning sun when you wake up. This will help keep you regulated and keep your sleep on schedule.
- Stick to a schedule. And speaking of schedules, it’s important to establish a normal sleep routine. When you go to sleep at 8 p.m. one night, then midnight the next, it can throw off your body clock and make it harder to get to sleep. Find a bedtime that works for you on a fairly consistent basis and stick with it. (Use alarms or apps on your phone that can tell you when it’s time to start winding down.) You also need to stay on schedule for wake-up times, too, which means no sleeping in to try and catch up for a loss of sleep on other days.
- Create a sleep haven. Scratchy sheets, drapes that let in a crack of light, a dripping faucet—these are the kinds of distractions that can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Take a look at your bedroom and see what needs improvement; that can include getting a new mattress, buying earplugs or light-blocking shades, or setting your thermostat so your bedroom is cool and comfortable for sleeping. Don’t forget the little luxuries that can send you off to dreamland on a good note, such as soft music to set a serene mood or a spritz of calming lavender essential oil on a pillow.
- Unplug to unwind. If it’s part of your nighttime routine to watch TV before bed, you may want to change things up. The blue light emitted from electronics (not just TVs, but smartphones and tablets, too) can mess up your circadian rhythm and make it harder for you to get to sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, make sure you power off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime and swap the Internet surfing for more soothing activities such as taking a warm bath, meditating or reading a book. These are healthy habits that can cue your body to get ready for sleeping and can be an ideal part of your nighttime routine. If needed, move the TV out of your bedroom and make sure your phone isn’t charging by your bedside in case you are tempted to do some late-night scrolling through social media.
- Avoid daytime sleep. Unless you work the night shift, you shouldn’t be napping during the day, as that disrupts your internal body clock. Odds are, you are napping because you’re not getting enough sleep at night, and this can devolve into a vicious cycle that leaves you tired and sluggish. Once you get on a set nighttime sleep schedule, you will probably see your need for naps decrease.
- Watch what you eat or drink. A big dinner of heavy, rich foods may taste good in the moment, but it probably won’t feel good when you’re up with heartburn in the middle of the night. As part of overall healthy nutrition habits, eat a light dinner focused on wholesome produce, lean meats and other good-for-you foods, and make sure you leave a few hours between meal time and bedtime for adequate digestion. Plus, limit the consumption of caffeine and alcohol at night, as too much of those substances can keep you awake.
- Stay active during the day to sleep well at night. Parents know that the best way to get kids to go to sleep is to make sure they’ve been running around and playing all day. The same goes for adults, too—exercise during the day can play a role in how well you sleep. Just don’t exercise heavily right before you go to bed, as it may take a while for your body to wind down.
- Relax your mind as well as your body. Some people toss and turn in bed because they can’t stop thinking about the worries or pressing concerns of the day. If that’s the case, find an outlet to help you get in the right headspace for sleeping. Meditation allows you to clear your mind and focus on the here and now; writing in a gratitude journal before bed means you can go to sleep on a positive note. There are also relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or body scanning that can alleviate stress and prepare you for a restful night. If you can’t shake your worries no matter how hard you try, discuss the problem with your counselor or therapist.
- See a doctor if needed. There are some people who try several techniques for better sleep and still find themselves awake, and frustrated, at 1 a.m. If you’ve tried sleep solutions that don’t work for you, there may be a medical cause at the root of your issues. Working with a physician can help pinpoint problems and offer solutions, such as changing a medication or running blood tests.
Sleep is essential for a healthy life, which means it’s essential for anyone who wants to live in sobriety. If you are experiencing sleep problems, or other obstacles that could interfere with your recovery, contact Casa Palmera today. Our experienced staff members can offer expert counsel and advise on how to live a vibrant and healthy life in recovery, giving you the tools you need to move forward—and sleep well at night.