National Sleep Awareness Week

Do you find yourself feeling tired and sluggish all day even after a full night’s rest? If so, you may be part of the 20% of the population who suffer from day time sleepiness.

Day time sleepiness may be one of the most common plagues of our day and while its prevalence may not be a surprise, there are many health risks and pesky side effects associated with poor sleep that many people aren’t aware of. We will be discussing what contributes to sleep health and why sleep is so important.

consequences of poor sleep

Most people know that if they don’t get enough sleep then they will be tired the next morning. What some don’t realize is that some of the consequences associated with poor sleep go far beyond just being tired the next day.

Those who don’t sleep enough can have difficulty with mental processes such as recalling, retaining, and processing information, concentration, or may have sudden mood changes or irritability.

Lack of sleep can wear you and your body down. Not being in a good mood the day after a long night of binge watching your favorite Netflix show is fine and good (and should be done every now and then), but what are the risks associated with consistently not getting enough sleep? Those who consistently lack sleep or lack enough quality sleep have a greater risk of weakening their immune system and ,therefore, getting sick, having a low sex drive, and gaining weight. Just to name a few.

But unfortunately it doesn’t end there. The longer you go being sleep deprived the greater risk you have for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Luckily there is a lot you can control when it comes to your sleep and there are a lot of things you can do to help increase the quality of your sleep.

how to increase your sleep health

Here is a list of things you can do to increase the amount and quality of sleep you are getting.

  1. PLAN FOR SLEEP: Plan ahead of time so that your daily activities end early enough for you to get enough shut eye. There are sleep calculators out there you can use to figure out how many hours of sleep you need to feel refreshed as well as suggestions for when to go to bed and what time to wake up.
  2. KEEP TO A CONSISTENT SCHEDULE: Go to bed and wake up the same time every day. The consistency helps your body self-regulate and makes it easier to go to bed and get up in the morning.
  3. KNOW YOURSELF: Know the amount of hours that make you feel the best. It is recommended that kids sleep between 8-12 hours, teens between 8-10 hours, and adults sleep between 7-9 hours each night. If it is recommended that you sleep 7-9 hours but always feel better when you sleep around six hours then do that. Know the hour range that works best with your body.
  4. LET THE LIGHT IN: Opening the windows first thing in the morning helps kickstart your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle and it is directly influenced by light and darkness. The light lets our body know that it is time to be awake, to move, and to have energy. Adversely, the darkness tells our body that it is time to shut down, relax, and go to sleep.
  5. NAP EARLY OR DONT NAP AT ALL: Napping (especially later in the evening) can mess with our circadian rhythm and also throw off our sleep schedule. If we nap too late in the evening we will not feel tired at the time we would normally get tired.
  6. DECREASE SCREEN TIME: All electronics emit a blue light that interferes with the circadian rhythm, telling your body that it’s time to be awake. Using electronics especially late at night will greatly interfere with your sleep and the quality of sleep you are getting. Try to decrease your over all screen time during the day, turn off all electronics at least an hour before going to bed, use blue light blocking glasses, or install apps on your phone that block blue light to get better sleep quality.
  7. EXERCISE DAILY: Daily exercise helps expel energy and naturally aid in being tired.
  8. DECREASE STIMULANTS: Having too many stimulants during the day or taking them too late at night will affect your sleep/wake cycle or the ability to go to bed. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, teas, or coffee too late at night.
  9. SLEEP WHEN YOU’RE TIRED: Go to sleep when you feel like sleeping. If you push past the sleepiness to finish whatever you may be doing at the time, you can finish your task and find that you are not tired. By ignoring your body you tell it that you are staying awake and to produce energy. This can make it difficult to fall asleep later on.
  10. LOWER YOUR BEDROOM TEMPERATURE: A lower bedroom temperature is conducive to sleep. A cooler temperature helps you fall asleep quicker.
  11. NO FOOD BEFORE BED: Eat a light dinner or eat at least two hours before you go to bed. Having food in our stomachs can make it hard to go to sleep because digestion does not work very well while we are sleeping and can lead to digestive problems.
  12. NIGHTTIME RITUAL: Having a routine is crucial in teaching your body when it’s time to go to sleep. If you have a nightly routine to wind down, you will teach your body to begin getting tired once you start that routine.
  13. USING NOISE MACHINES: Are you a light sleeper? Or do you find it hard to fall asleep because your mind is racing? Using white noises, ocean sounds, meditations, instrumental music, etc can help one settle their mind, allow them to fall asleep, and to block out other noises so they stay asleep.
  14. LIMIT TOSSING AND TURNING: It may seem counterintuitive, but if you are having a hard time falling asleep it is better to get up out of bed instead of tossing and turning for hours. The stress caused by not being able to fall asleep increases a stress hormone called cortisol. Once this is release it will become even harder to fall asleep. Instead, get up and do a repetitive action such as wash dishes, fold laundry, etc until you start to get sleepy and then go back to bed.

Get help

If after trying everything on your own and still not being able to go to sleep or wake up feeling refreshed, you should consult a physician. You may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as insomnia, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome. A physician is trained to help you work with these disorders to get better sleep.

Your quality of life will greatly increase by bettering your sleep habits and seeking professional help if needed. Sweet dreams!

Self-acceptance

If you’ve been following our blog posts you’ll have noticed that this month is focus on self-love. As we’ve discussed in the previous posts, self-love is quite ambiguous and there are a lot of different facets to dive into to truly master the art of it.

This week we will be focusing on how to improve your self-love through self-acceptance. 

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-acceptance is defined as:

 

“: the act or state of accepting oneself the act or state of understanding and recognizing one’s own abilities and limitations.

//In each moment you’re either practicing self-acceptance—or you’re judging yourself.— Linda Arnold”

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Moving toward self-acceptance

The first steps towards greater self-acceptance are: 

1-Recognize your faults, your strengths, your likes, your dislikes, and everything else that makes you, you. 
2-Completely accept all parts of you without qualification, conditions, stipulations, or exceptions.
3-Let go of others expectations of you and take back your power by not caring what other people think.

STeps 1 & 2

 

The first two steps may be harder than they appear. They mean to embrace your rock star traits and qualities… but also to accept the less than stellar parts– the parts we like to keep secret, hidden away. The first two steps of recognition and acceptance must occur in order to get to the third step. You cannot let go of others’ opinions of you unless you are comfortable and accepting of yourself first.

To begin working on the first two steps you must stop downplaying your great qualities.  Acknowledge them to yourself. Be confident and proud of who you are. Being confident and proud are very different from being conceited and vain. You are proud of the accomplishments, good traits, and are able to recognize the amazing qualities of others. Why wouldn’t you do the same for yourself? Own who you are. Take pride in being you! 

While it is a lot easier to accept the good, you cannot be fully self-accepting unless you embrace the bad as well. Is it hard? You betcha. You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t that counterintuitive though? Shouldn’t I reject the things I don’t like about myself in order to change them?”

While it may seem counterintuitive, most people don’t realize that it is the only way to begin self-improvement and growth. You cannot heal, change, or grow unless you are in a state of love and understanding. Healing does not happen in a place of judgement or ridicule. You must move from rejection and resistance to understanding and peace. Make peace with your short temper, your ugly feet, your procrastination, or whatever your faults and shortcomings may be, and you will find the freedom and an increased ability to be at peace with them or overcome them. 

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step 3

Once you are accepting and understanding of all sides of yourself you will stop looking to outside sources to feel loved, worthy, or validated because you will find it all from within.  You will love yourself and know you innately are worthy and deserve to be loved. It will become easy to let go of the opinions of others because their opinion will not change who you are or your worth. 

This means, you do not have to do things to please other people, you can let go of others expectations of you, and you can be you to your fullest, without reservation or apology. Do you have a dream of being a rodeo star? Or to sing on broadway? Don’t be embarrassed of these dreams. Someone else is doing them, why can’t you?

Just because other people do not share the same dream or understand its importance does not mean it is silly and an unworthy goal.  As long as it is important to you, it is important and you should own it no matter how odd or quirky it may seem to someone else. Do what makes you happy. Your happiness is the only one you are in control of. 

 

 

 

Get help

Working on self-acceptance is an individual process, but sometimes we have deep-rooted beliefs or issues that oppose our commendable efforts. This ultimately can keep us back, no matter how much we try. This is typically where most of us give up because it seems impossible to move past. 

It can be a little uncomfortable at first, but reaching out to a trained professional such as a therapist or counselor can help you get out of your own head and move past whatever is keeping you from fully and truly accepting yourself. You are worth the effort, time, and money and deserve to live an exuberant life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-love Through Self-care

Self-care is a hot topic these days, but when actually done, a lot of people feel guilty or selfish for doing something for themselves.  If this resonates with you, take a moment and reflect on this quote:

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. You must fill your own cup first.”

– Author unknown.

What if you couldn’t afford NOT to take care of yourself? What if taking care of yourself first meant that you had more love, more energy, more joy, more quality time, and just plain more of yourself to give to others? Self-care and self-love aren’t a form of selfishness, but are a way to ensure that we are taken care of first so that we have more to give to those we love.

Below are a list of ways to have self-care in all 5 of the areas of wellness.

Physical self-care

Grooming

For grooming make sure to keep good personal hygiene, have presentable hair, dress in clean clothes,  men shave your face or trim your facial hair, and women put on make up or jewelry or whatever helps you feel nice. Good grooming can help increase self-confidence, self-esteem, and when you respect yourself, others will respect you more as well.

Exercise

Exercise tends to have a negative connotation, but exercise doesn’t have to be grueling and strenuous. Exercise can be simple and the purpose is to get your body moving. Types of movement include walking, bike riding, dancing, yoga, stretching, and so much more.

Finding a movement that is enjoyable and that resonates with your body has major health benefits. Exercise releases a happy hormone called endorphins, it can increase your energy and focus, aid in bone density, and decrease risks of chronic disease.

Diet

One of the most important aspects of physical self-care is nutrition. What we eat affects everything in our bodies from hormones, energy levels, mental state, gut health, and illness. Almost more important than how much you eat is what you eat.

The easiest way to better the quality of food consumed is to focus on small, manageable changes that move you closer to a healthier lifestyle. This could be changing one of your snacks to a healthier alternative, changing one or two processed carbohydrates that you routinely eat to more complex carbohydrates i.e.  whole grains, oats, lentils, beans, fruits,  and vegetables, or substitute some of your caffeinated beverages/juices for water.

These are a couple of simple ways to get a head start on your nutrition and taking care of your body from the inside out. You only have one body after all so take care of it.

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Mental/Emotional self-care

Mental wellness is very distinct from emotional wellness, but they are both so closely related that it is hard to differentiate between the two. Because they both influence one another we will be grouping them together here.

Mental wellness deals with the ability to process information while emotional wellness is the ability to express your emotions based on what your mind processed. If one’s mind is altered by anxiety they might be so fixated on one thing that they wouldn’t process their surrounding information like normal. If they are unable to process information accurately, then their reaction to the situation would also be altered.

Here is a list of ways that we can give ourselves some love mentally and emotionally.

Mental
  • Practice positive self-talk
  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise
  • Drink enough water
  • Practice gratitude
  • Serve others
  • Get a mental workout
  • Manage stress
  • Have a hobby that brings you happiness
emotional
  • The above list will apply to emotional health as well
  • Be more mindful- be present in the moment, be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and environment
  • Foster healthy relationships and cut out negative relationships
  • Accept your emotions
  • Speak up for yourself
  • Be inspired
  • Laugh

social self-care

Social wellness is our perception of belonging in relationships and how we interact with others. The best way to increase your social wellness is first to identify your specific needs. Do you like having a lot of friends or do you prefer a smaller circle with closer relationships? Identifying your needs will help you know how to proceed to fulfill those needs.

Ways to improve social wellness include:

  • Be more approachable. Smile and let people know you are open to talking
  • Pursue your interests and find like-minded people
  • Join a club or a group
  • Listen more intently and be more engaged when talking with others
  • Reach out and keep in contact with supportive family and friends

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Spiritual self-care

Spirituality is the quality and consciousness of the human spirit or soul. It is a connection with something greater than ourselves. This could be worshipping a God or deity, connecting with Mother Earth or the Universe. The best way to develop spiritual self-care is to start. Find something that feels right to you and don’t be afraid to explore it.  Finding our spirituality can help fill a hole we never realized we had.