Happy World Sleep Day! Yes, March 18, 2022, is the sleep-centric holiday we all know and love.
Wait … what’s that? You’re unaware there’s an entire holiday dedicated to sleep? Well, you heard that right! World Sleep Day is an annual celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues surrounding sleep, like:
So, how does one celebrate sleep? In the spirit of the medical professionals and sleep researchers who created World Sleep Day, we suggest using today as an opportunity to learn more about sleep and how to make it a priority in your life – today and every day.
Quality Sleep, Sound Mind, Happy World
World Sleep Day was designed to raise awareness of sleep as a human privilege that is often compromised by the habits of modern life. This year’s theme is Quality Sleep, Sound Mind, Happy World, and it addresses the following questions:
How might better sleep help people focus during the day?
How might fatigue weigh us down physically, mentally, and emotionally?
These questions can help us to recognize that restorative sleep is critical to our ability to lead happy, healthy lives both individually and as a part of a community. But to benefit from quality sleep, we need to first understand what exactly that means.
What Is Quality Sleep?
Sleep and recovery are not the same thing. You can get eight plus hours of sleep a night and still feel groggy when you wake in the morning. This is often a sign that you aren’t getting enough high-quality, restorative sleep.
There are four sleep stages identified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
Restorative sleep occurs in Stage 3 and Stage REM. This is where important recovery happens for your body and brain, such as:
Stabilization of glucose levels
Lack of quality sleep can cause anxiety and depression, forgetfulness, fatigue, lowered libido, and even weight gain. Sometimes sleep disorders can be the culprit, and you should seek medical treatment if you’re concerned. But many times, small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
How Can We Promote Quality Sleep?
The best way to promote quality sleep for mental and physical health is to practice good sleep hygiene – habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. Here are a few of the big ones.
Establish a Routine
Find a routine that works for you and stick to it. Read that second part again. When it comes to practicing good sleep hygiene, consistency is key.
Set your alarm for the same time each morning – even on weekends – and when it goes off, get out of bed. If you need some time to wake up before starting your day, you can plop down on the couch or at the kitchen table, but don’t stay in bed. Teach your brain that your bed equals sleep time.
Establish a regular bedtime and a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath, reading something you enjoy or listening to soothing music. If possible, schedule stressful or demanding tasks earlier in the day so you can start winding down as early as possible.
So many of life’s problems boil down to what we eat – it’s true, right? A big way to help promote restorative sleep is to be mindful of what you consume.
It’s best to avoid caffeine – if you can’t cut out your morning cup of joe, try to avoid all caffeinated beverages by mid-afternoon. If you frequently wake at night to urinate, try to avoid beverages altogether after dinner.
When it comes to bedtime snacks, choose something bland and light that won’t keep you up with digestive woes. And avoid alcohol after dinner time – it might make you feel sleepy, but it actually disrupts the quality of sleep you receive.
A tried and true method for sleeping better is to be active during the day. Tire your body out. Use your energy.
Build up to 30 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise nearly every day. Walking is an excellent choice – and if you can walk outside in the sunlight, you get bonus points because you’re helping your circadian rhythm. Get your exercise early in the day, and then try some stretching exercises or yoga to relax your muscles and your mind at bedtime. You don’t want to exercise too late in the day, or that same rush of energy that makes us feel so good after exercising could keep you from falling asleep.
Perfect your Sleep Environment
Your sleep environment should send cues to your brain that it is time to go to sleep. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet to promote sleep. It should also be well ventilated and kept at a constant, comfortable temperature – between 60 and 67 degrees is the ideal sleep temperature for most.
Try using a sleep mask, earplugs or a white noise machine to compensate for problems in your sleeping environment such as lights or noises from outside. Of course you’ll want to be sure your bed is comfortable, too.
Now onto the last piece of the puzzle – how do we celebrate World Sleep Day? Whether you’re celebrating how sleep has impacted your physical health, mental health or social health this year, we’re here to help you out.
Take a Walk
Springtime is just around the corner and Daylight Savings Time has begun. Take advantage of that later sunset and talk a 30-45 minute walk around your neighborhood. Soak in the daylight, treat your body right, sleep better tonight. Isn’t it poetic?
The more you try to force sleep, the less sleep you get. Quiet your mind with meditation before sleeping tonight.
Find a quiet area and get comfortable. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. Focus on your breathing. If a thought pops up, let it go and refocus on your breathing. Inhale. Exhale. (Psst … do you struggle to meditate? There are apps for that.)
In 2021, over 200 activities were organized by volunteers worldwide for World Sleep Day. You can advocate and raise awareness for sleep health this year by organizing a World Sleep Day activity in your local community and sharing it here. You have a full month left to take part. Go forth and sleep healthy!