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Vital Signs: Maximizing the Benefits of Sleep

Most of us have a morning on occasion when we wake up wishing the previous night’s sleep had been better, longer, or more energizing. There are many strategies to getting the most out of the hours we do sleep, as well as guidelines on how much sleep a particular age group should be getting. For example, if adults over 18 aren’t getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night (optimal amount of sleep = 7.5-10 hours per night), they might be setting themselves up for chronic fatigue and a decreased tolerance for stress.

The main reason for chronic fatigue and stress increasing with less fulfilling sleep is because sleep is the primary time for the body to heal from whatever havoc we wreaked upon it during waking hours. Without this natural downtime reset button during the wee hours, we risk increased possibility of injury, not to mention decreased ability to concentrate, when engaged in mind and body-stressing tasks.

The position in which we sleep can also affect the quality of sleep we get, and the ideal position for one person may not work for another. It is important to identify which position provides the most comfortable night of sleep, and how to use pillows to make that position provide better spinal and postural alignment to aid respiration, circulation and digestion while sleeping. Check out this article for more information on sleeping position types.

Checklist for getting the most effective sleep every day:

  • Sleep at the same time each day – We tend to sleep better if we consistently sleep at roughly the same time each day. Try to get to bed at the same time each night, barring the nights spent being on-call and you’ll find yourself drifting to sleep easier.
  • Avoid caffeine past 6pm – Abstaining from caffeine in the evening helps your body ease into its natural state of slowing down for the night, getting you ready for sleep.
  • Get daily exercise – Getting exercise into your daily routine helps you work out frustrations, calms the mind and release endorphins that soothe you into sweet sweet slumber.
  • Leave the bed for sleeping – If you read, eat, watch movies in bed, chances are you’re not going to have the easiest of time falling asleep. By reserving the bed for slumber, you condition your mind to accept that once you climb into bed, it’s time for sleep.

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