The Power of Sleep

November 5, 2017

For my last two blog posts, I have talked about the importance of proper stress management through relaxation and the importance of eating well to control inflammation and pain.  This month’s blog post will continue the theme of health and wellness and will discuss why it is so important that we all get a good night’s sleep.

We all instinctively know that sleeping well is important for us to function our best during the day.  You feel better when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, right?  Scientists are now discovering just how important sleep is for our health and longevity.

Numerous studies have shown that people who are well rested have lower levels of systemic inflammation, lose weight more easily, have healthier levels of cholesterol, and are less likely to experience anxiety and depression.  In addition, we know that while we sleep, our brain works on storing and integrating the information that we have learned from the day.

Now that we have briefly discussed some of the many health benefits of sleeping well, let us talk about putting this into practice.  Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle habits of staring at TV and computer screens throughout the course of our day, and in particular before bedtime, have not helped our society become better rested.  Researchers have shown that people who look at screens (TV, computer, phone, etc) right before bedtime tend to get less sleep than those who do not.  There may be several reasons for this, but it is believed that stimulating content is one factor leading to decreased ability to fall asleep.  Another factor is the particular light that is emitted from our screens.  Simply being exposed to this light can stimulate our nervous system and make falling asleep more difficult.

Many experts on the subject of sleep hygiene recommend that people not be exposed to screen time for at least two hours before bedtime.  For those of us that may not be willing or able to make that happen, there are several products that people can buy that will block the stimulating light that is emitted from our screens.  Several companies make an anti-blue light filter that can be placed over TV and computer screens of various sizes to block the stimulating light.  There are also special blue light blocking glasses that can be purchased and worn.  A quick search on Amazon will yield multiple results for both of these.

So today, I am setting forth a challenge to you, dear reader.  For the rest of the month, I would like to challenge you to try to give yourself at least a one hour window of no screen time (this includes your phone) before you go to bed.  This will certainly be a challenge for some, but I think you will find that not only will you sleep better, but your days will be filled with more patience, caring, and energy… and who wouldn’t trade that for one more internet cat video.

Article Written By: Galen Wetzell, DPT, OCS