Celebrate the New Year With a Healthy Gift
by Pauline Krutilla, MS, CEAP
You can give yourself a healthy gift to start off the New Year. It doesn’t cost a cent. It’s the gift of getting regular, restful, restorative sleep. A good night’s sleep is something we all aspire to, but many fall short. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than one third of U.S. adults aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
Sleep keeps the mind and body healthy
The relationship between sleep and overall physical health is well-documented. Sleep allows the body and brain to recover during the night. A good night’s rest ensures you’ll feel refreshed and alert when you wake up in the morning.
How much sleep do you really need?
Most adults need at least seven or more hours of sleep on a regular schedule every night. Getting enough sleep isn’t only about total hours slept. It’s also important to get good, quality sleep, so you’ll feel rested when you wake up. Falling asleep during the day is a likely sign you aren’t getting adequate sleep at night.
A “sleep deficiency” occurs if you regularly experience one or more of the following:
• You often don't get enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
• You fall asleep at the wrong time of day (means you're out of sync with your body's natural clock)
• You don't sleep well or you miss the restorative levels of sleep (REM sleep, deep sleep, etc.) that your body needs
• You have a sleep disorder preventing you from getting enough sleep or resulting in poor quality sleep
Having a sleep deficiency increases the risk for a wide range of diseases and other health problems. This includes obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Lack of sleep also poses a threat to physical safety (drowsy drivers cause thousands of traffic accidents every year).
What about sleep aids like Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulates a person’s sleep cycle. At the proper dose, melatonin is generally considered safe. Always follow the instructions. If you take other medications or have other health conditions, check with your health care provider before using melatonin or any supplement.
Develop good sleep hygiene in 2022
As a New Year resolution (one that you can actually keep) try developing healthy sleep hygiene habits. Sleep hygiene refers to the regular habits that help you have a good night’s sleep. Here are some sleep hygiene recommendations from Headspace.com:
Set a consistent sleep-wake schedule
This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, give or take 20 minutes, including weekends.
Create a relaxing bedtime/pre-bedtime routine
Focus on calming activities you enjoy — reading a book, meditation, deep breathing, or drinking caffeine-free tea. For guided meditations, check out the Advocate Aurora LiveWell app featuring meditation exercises anytime, anywhere to help increase mindfulness and reduce stress. When you’re stressed or anxious, your body produces more cortisol, the stress hormone. The higher the cortisol, the more awake you feel and the less likely you are to sleep.
Dim the lights; unplug from electronics
Bright light from lamps and electronics at night can mess with your sleep-wake cycle, making it harder to fall asleep. You’ve probably heard it before: screens and sleep are incompatible. Keeping screen use to a minimum at least an hour before bed is essential for sound sleep. The blue light from your laptop or cell phone interferes with the release of melatonin, a hormone that tells your body it’s time to wind down.
Keep your room cool and comfortable
Anything below 54°F or higher than 75°F might disrupt your slumber.
Get regular exercise
Exercise helps by promoting melatonin production. 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise during the day may improve your sleep quality that same night. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime.
Other tips to improve your sleep routine:
• stop watching the clock at night when trying to fall asleep
• avoid daytime naps
• eat and hydrate enough (but not too much or too close to bedtime)
• avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other chemicals that interfere with sleep
Start the New Year off right
Getting enough sleep should always be a top priority. Try the tips offered here. If you still have trouble sleeping — or if you often feel tired after sleeping — please consult with your health care provider. You may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder that can be treated.
To look for a robust EAP for your organization, check out Advocate Aurora’s Employer Solutions. A solution customized to your company’s culture could also include employer clinics, wellness, occupational health, executive health programs and more.
Pauline Krutilla, MS, CEAP, Director EAP, Advocate Aurora Employee Assistance Program