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May is Better Sleep Month!

Why is sleep so important that we designate a whole month to bring awareness to it? Let’s find out together!


How does sleep impact our overall health?

Did you know that refreshing sleep is important to staying healthy? Poor sleep can impact our physical, emotional and mental health.

Inadequate sleep can lead to an increase in blood pressure and stress hormone production; the body can become stressed when it does not get enough sleep. The consequences of poor sleep include reduced concentration, mood swings, irritability, stress, and a weakened immune system. The release of stress hormones can also make it harder to sleep, perpetuating an unhealthy sleep cycle. In severe cases, poor sleep may be linked to serious problems including narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Better sleep month helps to bring awareness to these concerns and encourage folks to seek advice from their healthcare provider.

There are many physical and psychological factors which can cause poor sleep; stress is a common cause. Worries such as elder care, childcare, family conflicts, problems with personal relationships, financial concerns and other anxieties can all interrupt healthy sleep patterns. Physical factors that can affect sleep include pain, excess sweating, need to urinate, noise (including snoring by a bed partner) and light levels. Stress can elevate blood pressure; heart attack and stroke are well documented risks of high blood pressure. Gender can also play a role in sleep disturbance. Michael Breus, Ph.D author of ‘Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight and Feel Great Through Better Sleep” believes that women are generally more sleep deprived than men. Further factors which disrupt sleep include excitement, depression, anxiety and caffeine intake close to bed time; environmental factors include room temperature, light levels, humidity, bedding and noise. During 2008 Better Sleep Month, the BSC conducted a survey on sleep and productivity in the workplace. Their results showed that the main consequences from lack of sleep in the workplace include a huge decline in quality of work, judgment and concentration. It’s estimated that poor sleep costs US businesses about $150 billion through absenteeism and lost productivity.

In many cases, better sleep can be achieved through changes to our lifestyle and the way we think about things. Better Sleep Month helps to make people aware of any poor sleeping habits we may have. Counseling can help address personal problems which are causing stress; relaxation techniques may be taught to counteract the effects of stress. There is recent evidence which suggests achieving better quality sleep may be more important than increasing the hours of sleep. The National Sleep Council, which supports Better Sleep Month, has reported that people who sleep between 6 and 7 hours a night actually live longer than those who sleep for 8 hours.

Here are some tips for getting better sleep:

  1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule by sleeping at the same time each day of the week (including weekends).
  2. Relax before sleeping (limiting stimulating activities such as exercise and work and instead engage in activities you find relaxing such as reading).
  3. Create an optimal sleep environment (your place of sleep should be dark, ventilated and of an appropriate temperature; black out blinds help to seal out light, remove any distractions such as computer and TVs, use comfortable bedding and ensure there is enough space if you share the bed).
  4. A healthy lifestyle consisting of exercise and a healthy diet can contribute toward better sleep. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine close to bed time.
  5. For more information please visit The Better Sleep Council website at

Lacey Skwortz, LCSW

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