Healthy sleep habits can make a big difference to your quality of life and effectiveness during the day. You work all day, then get hit with a huge emergency only to crawl into bed sometime around midnight, or worse, just to get up and do it all again the next day.
Sleep specialists say while you may think you are coping well on less sleep, you’re probably wrong. There is, however, a more sinister problem associated with a lack of sleep that we ignore at our own peril, especially in a profession that is plagued by burnout, compassion fatigue and career exodus. Even low levels of sleep deprivation can begin to affect our emotional function.
One of the first things to be impacted by sleep deprivation are positive emotions. Psychologists and sleep experts say our ability to express and recognise positive emotions in other people suffers when we are not well rested, while resilience to negative emotions and coping strategies concurrently start to fail us.
Of course, it takes more than just a good night sleep to have good emotional well-being. Trying to build coping strategies when you are even moderately fatigued is a bit like trying to have a deep and meaningful conversation with your very drunk friend.
So how can we set ourselves up for a really restful night’s sleep, so we are recharged and ready for a full day of VETTING? Try some of these top tips recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.
# Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
# Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
# If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
# Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
# Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 (15.5C) and 67 (19.5C) degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that could disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
# Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy, which is about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep. Ensure the room is free of allergens that might affect you, and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.
# Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
# Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. Ideally, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
# Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
# If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It’s best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
# If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better identify and evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.
Are you feeling well rested? Ready to start impacting your resilience, recognising body language, building your communication skills and have a better chance at avoiding burnout and compassion fatigue? Join us online for Vet Talk with Dr Sandra Nguyen.
As a specialist oncologist with a passion and drive for great communication encounters, she knows and has experienced many successes and failures of her own. Sandra is a very humble and down to earth educator and she will most certainly be your ‘Yoda’ on the journey to improving your communication skills with interactive sessions, weekly goals, and a chance to talk through some of your own experiences. Don’t miss out and register today!
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