The Role Sleep Plays in Brain Health and Staying Regulated
Life is busy and stressful. With so many demands, investing in good sleep may not be on the top of your priority list.
All the yawning, increased stress, and poor reactions to that stress are big indicators that you aren’t getting enough quality sleep.
Why Sleep Hygiene is Important
You must think about good sleep hygiene as a foundation to better health. Getting enough quality sleep improves our well-being in many ways. Here are just a few ways better sleep can improve your life:
- It helps you respond to stressors in more positive ways.
- It helps regulate your brain, allowing you to choose your behaviors more intentionally.
- You have fewer negative emotions and lower risk for depression.
- You have an easier time focusing.
- It helps regulate your appetite.
- It helps give you resistance to high blood pressure, type II diabetes, prostate cancer, and infectious diseases.
What does this all mean? It means that you and your child with trauma can stay better regulated when you get better sleep.
How Much Sleep Should I or My Child Get?
We need different amounts of sleep during different stages of our lives. The amount that a 40-year-old adult needs will differ from that of a 5-year-old. The recommended number of hours decreases as a person ages; a kindergartener needs between 10 and 13 hours of sleep a night, while adults need around 7 hours.
To figure out how much sleep you or your child should get, check out the sleep calculator from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
While getting a good night’s sleep to support your body and mind isn’t complicated, implementing good sleep hygiene can be difficult. The CDC reports that one-third of U.S. adults are sleep-deprived.
Good Sleep Helps Your Brain!
It’s so important to make time for good sleep hygiene. There are both short-term and long-term rewards for getting great sleep.
I mentioned earlier that good sleep can help us regulate our brains and emotions. Think of sleep as a time of rest and reset. Your body passes through four stages of non-REM (rapid eye movement) on its way to REM sleep. While REM sleep is critical to learning, memory, and mental health, each phase of sleep plays a role in supporting your health.
When we have enough quality sleep, our brains are able to function on a higher, more efficient level. This means we can process situations and information better. We are able to respond to stressors in a way that is better for us and those around us. And it can help us focus and regulate easier.
While the amount of time you sleep is important, so is the quality of that sleep. So how can we get better sleep?
Cut Back On Interruptions
Interruptions to your sleep in any of these stages will cause you to start back over in the first stage of light sleep. Here are some ways experts suggest you can cut back on interruptions during sleep:
- Keep a consistent bedtime
- Avoid electronics, spicy foods, heavy meals, and intense exercise 30 minutes before bedtime
- Create a comfortable, quiet, and calming bedroom space
- Prepare for the next day ahead of time, such as setting out clothes, so that you don’t worry about it overnight
- Turn notifications from your devices off from 30 minutes before bedtime until the time your alarm goes off
If there is one thing you learn from this article, it’s this: while increasing the amount of sleep you get each night can be a struggle, increasing the quality of the sleep you do get can still deliver benefits for your health and wellbeing! Quality sleep can be a benefit to both you and your child with trauma, so set up a healthy bedtime routine and stick to it.