Insights from Stephanie Berman, MSN, RN, CALM
We all know sleep is important. But as a healthcare professional, you’re no stranger to long shifts, stressful situations, emotional strain, and physically demanding tasks. And while these may be a part of your everyday work, it’s only natural that they can take a toll on you over time.
So, how do you continue being the incredible caregiver you are, while maintaining your wellness and sanity? The answer is something most of us love – sleep. Getting proper rest each night is not only necessary for your health, but it can also be a game-changer when it comes to motivating yourself. When you get enough sleep, you naturally feel more pumped and ready to take on the day!
So, in this article, we’re going to take a look at the steps you can take to wake up on the right side of the bed. We’ll also discuss the importance of sleep and the health conditions that can stem from sleep deprivation.
Issues caused by sleep deprivation
This is something that you’ve probably already experienced yourself. When you have one of those nights where you just don’t get enough sleep, getting through the next day becomes a huge challenge. You feel groggy, irritable, and sleepy—and your productivity takes a hit. But when sleep deprivation becomes a consistent thing, it can lead to much bigger issues such as:
1. Compromised immune system
A lack of sleep can weaken your immune system and make you more prone to getting sick. Not only that, but it can also prolong your recovery period after you do, in fact, get sick.
2. Cardiovascular issues
Insomnia is associated with heart disease and high blood pressure. When you don’t get enough sleep for weeks or months on end, it can lead to unhealthy habits that can harm your heart health, including higher stress levels, less motivation to get moving, and unhealthy eating habits.
3. Burnout and mental health concerns
This is perhaps the most common symptom of sleep deprivation. When your body and mind don’t get the rest they need, it can lead to burnout, anxiety, depression, and emotional exhaustion. This doesn’t only negatively impact your personal life but also your professional life.
4. Metabolic disturbances
Sleep deprivation can also silently disrupt the hormonal regulation in your body. A lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of diabetes. Studies have shown that waking up multiple times during the night, getting too little or too much sleep, and irregular sleep all promote glucose intolerance.
5. Increased risk of errors, mistakes, and issues
Without a doubt, a lack of sleep can impact your cognitive function and make focusing the next day a hard task. But did you know that if sleep deprivation becomes an everyday thing, it can actually impair your cognitive function and reaction times? This can increase the likelihood of errors, mistakes, and issues. So, let’s prioritize our shut-eye! Because while a good night’s rest may not feel like the most important thing in the world—it certainly makes us more capable and alert human beings.
The importance of getting a good night’s sleep
Instinctually, and by experience, we all know how important sleep is. It not only keeps the above-mentioned conditions and issues at bay, but it also has some great benefits.
1. Enhanced cognitive performance
After a good night’s rest, you feel completely refreshed and recharged. Your mood is also stable and you’re ready to take on any challenges during the day. Also, getting enough sleep ensures optimal cognitive function, including memory, problem-solving, decision-making, and critical thinking. It even speeds up your reaction times and increases your attention span. In the healthcare industry, these can be critical to your success as a professional.
2. Increased emotional resilience
Quality sleep plays a significant role in managing stress, anxiety, and emotional well-being. Lack of sleep can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and an increased risk of burnout. On the other hand, when you get ample sleep, you feel more capable of handling sudden events, managing stressful situations, and dealing with the intricacies of patient care.
3. Better physical health
Getting enough sleep is not just for mental clarity, it’s also important for your physical health. Did you know that your sleep cycle is connected to your body’s performance in several important areas? As mentioned above, it impacts immune function, cardiovascular health, and even the regulation of hormones. Prioritizing restful sleep can help you feel more energized and improve your mood. So go ahead, turn off that phone, snuggle up in your comfiest pajamas, and drift off into dreamland for a happier, healthier you.
Steps to wake up on the right side of the bed
So, what can you do to ensure that you always start your day right? How do you enhance your sleep, so you have the best chance of waking up feeling refreshed and positive?
1. Prioritize consistent sleep patterns
Your body loves routines and finds repetitive tasks easy, especially if they are done at the same time every day. So, you could establish a regular sleep schedule when you go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This regulates your body’s internal clock, which makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the desired times.
2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine
This is quite fun when you get into the habit. For example, you could read a book before you go to bed, practice meditation, take a long bath or shower, go for a walk, do some deep breathing exercises, do some gentle stretching, take care of your skin, practice gratitude, etc. Make sure you avoid screens and stimulating activities that can interfere with your ability to unwind.
3. Optimize your sleep environment
The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. Your sleeping environment has a huge impact on how long and how well you sleep. Because of this it’s important that your sleep environment is conducive to rest. You can keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Also, invest in a comfortable mattress, blankets, and pillows. You spend quite a bit of your life sleeping—might as well make it enjoyable!
4. Limit caffeine and alcohol
We’ve all been there – dragging ourselves out of bed, feeling like we’ve barely slept a wink. It’s not a great way to start the day, and it can leave us feeling irritable and groggy for hours. And certain foods and drinks can make matters worse. If you’re a fan of caffeine, gulping down coffee or energy drinks during the day could be impacting your sleep cycle. Similarly, alcohol can also interfere with your rest, leaving you feeling even more tired in the morning. To give yourself the best chance of a good night’s rest, try to cut back on caffeine and alcohol as much as possible. Plus, avoiding food for a few hours before bedtime can help you fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer.
5. Stay active
If you’re tossing and turning all night, regular physical activity might be the solution you need. Not only is exercise great for keeping your body healthy, but it can also improve the quality of your sleep. Even a simple routine of gentle movements can set your body in motion, keeping all systems working optimally throughout the day and ensuring a restful night’s sleep. Try to avoid intense workouts close to bedtime (as they may keep you up at night).
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