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What's a great way to improve mental & physical health? Let's sleep on it...

What's a great way to improve mental & physical health? Let's sleep on it...

Mar. 10, 2021

By Cameron Archer

My freshman year of college, I had my nights and days backwards. I would stay up all night and then go to my morning classes, then come back to my dorm room and eat and then sleep for the rest of the day. After a while, I noticed this was not healthy for my body or my grades.

What made me switch my routine around was the day I slept through one of my exams. I emailed my professor and he let me retake it. But it still made me want to change my bad habit. One day I stayed up for a full 24 hours so I could be sleepy and fall asleep at night. This worked and eventually my sleep schedule got better.

After switching my sleep schedule around I saw a drastic change in my grades. I knew I wouldn’t have been able to continue doing well in my classes if I had continued with the same sleep schedule that would keep me awake all night and sleep all day.

A few years later, my sleep schedule still isn’t the greatest. But I have learned how important getting a good night of sleep is. It can really change your entire day. The more sleep you get, the more efficient you will work that day and more motivation you will have. You can’t get effective work done while being tired at work or school.

I am telling this story because on Sunday, Sleep Awareness Week will begin. It’s an annual observance held by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), this year from Sunday to March 20. Ironically, or perhaps on purpose, Sleep Awareness Week will begin on the day that we spring forward an hour to observe Daylight Savings Time. Losing an hour doesn’t mean you have to lose it on sleep, though. 

After all, as I realized, prioritizing your sleep is an important and key factor in improving your well-being and overall health.

Want to participate? Consider becoming a Sleep Health Advocate. By sharing helpful infographics and fun sleep tips, you are helping to remind your colleagues, friends and family about the importance of sleep health.

People do not realize how crucial getting a good night’s sleep actually is. This is why Sleep Awareness Week is so important. The recommended amount of sleep by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for an adult is seven-plus hours per 24 hours. 

NSF shows polls of Americans sleep level in 2020. These polls show alarming levels of sleepiness and low levels of action and that Americans feel sleepy on average of three times a week. The alarming part is that 62% of these people try to “shake off” their sleepiness as their primary response. 

These Americans who report feeling sleepiness five to seven days a week report high rates of irritability, such as headaches and feeling unwell. The poll that Sleep in America put out, recorded that when people feel sleepy, it is generally because they are not sleeping as much as they should be as opposed to not have enough time to get the right amount of sleep.

It’s also not surprising that many people’s sleep schedules have suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Different work schedules and different routines can contribute to a sleep difficulties. Large amounts of stress can change your sleep routine poorly.

Working from home can change your circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes.

It's a shame, because getting good sleep is one factor in keeping your immune system healthy and fending off viruses and illnesses such as COVID-19 and influenza.

The CDC provides tips on how to help you get a good night’s sleep and some habits that can improve your sleep health. These tips can help you feel better rested the next day and make sure you are getting the most out of your day.

Many individuals are probably aware of at least some of the tips. Go to bed at around the same time each night and wake up the same time each morning, even on weekends. Exercise during the day but not too close to bedtime. Make your bedroom into an oasis of relaxation and sleep, without electronic devices.

Sure, you’re not going to fix all of your bad habits overnight. But just like I did, you can make some changes that will lead to a better and more consistent sleep schedule… as well as better mental and physical health.

Cameron Archer is a public information intern at Monongalia County Health Department.

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