I am a night nurse; I work from 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. three nights a week. Bouncing back and forth between sleeping during the day and sleeping at night is not easy. It takes focus and a commitment to making sleep a priority. Good sleep is perhaps the single biggest element in promoting overall good health.
At WVMC, we understand that sleep matters
When I begin a work shift, the first thing I do with my patients is review our plan of care and devise a strategy to help my patients get the best possible sleep they can achieve. This can be challenging when there are medications to give, vital signs to take, labs to be drawn, bathroom breaks and pain to manage. As a night nurse, I make every effort to cluster my care to minimize interruptions to my patientsâ€™ sleep.
Our author catching up on his sleep.Â
The importance of sleep, related to healing
In many ways, sleep is the great unknown. Itâ€™s something that we all do, every day, and will spend nearly a third of our lives doing, but research indicates most people have no idea how sleep relates to their overall health. According to a recent study from Harvard Medical School, your body needs sleep for many reasons, but here are some of the most important ones.
Learning and memory
Good sleep allows the brain to commit new information to memory. This is called memory consolidation, and itâ€™s a very important process that involves transferring short-term memory into long-term memory. Essentially, this is how we remember everything that has happened to us in our past.
A study from the National Institute of Health reports moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Good sleep is essential to performing day-to-day activities safely.
Metabolism and weight
Lack of sleep alters important levels of hormones in our bodies that contributes to weight gain by impacting the way we process and store carbohydrates.
Feeling tired impacts every area of our lives, most notably how we feel. Sleep deprivation leads to irritability, moodiness, depression, anxiety, impatience and the inability to concentrate.
Proper immune function is directly related to good sleep. Lack of sleep alters immune function, including the activity of white blood cells. Studies even indicate good sleep plays a huge role in fighting all types of cancer.
Lack of sleep is also contributed to hypertension, irregular heartbeats, and increased stress hormone levels.
Tips to Improve Sleep Hygiene
As I mentioned earlier, we sleep nearly a third of our lives. If there is any topic worth exploring and researching, this is it! Hit up the library, perform a Google search, check out a bookstore and enhance your understanding of sleep. The highly respected Mayo Clinic recommends the following tips to help promote good sleep:
Stick to a sleep schedule
More than anything, consistency reinforces the bodyâ€™s sleep cycle rhythm. Even on weekends, vacations, and holidays, top medical experts recommend going to bed at the same time.
Pay attention to what you eat and drink
Itâ€™s a good idea to avoid eating a few hours before going to sleep. A full stomach or bladder can be uncomfortable and increase late night trips to the bathroom. Also, consuming nicotine, caffeine, and/or alcohol prior to sleeping can negatively impact your ability to fall asleep and achieve deep sleep.
Create a bedtime ritual
A nightly consistent routine lets your mind understand that itâ€™s time to wind down and prepare for bed. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness.
Your sleep environment should promote rest. Make it comfortable. Invest in good bedding, a mattress that meets your needs and a comfortable pillow.
Limit daytime naps
Long naps can interfere with good sleep at night; so if you feel the need to nap, aim for 20 minutes. A short nap will help you feel rejuvenated, but have minimal impact on your night-time sleep schedule.
Include physical activity in your daytime routine
Regular daily exercise helps people fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and achieve deeper sleep. However, itâ€™s important to not exercise too closely to bedtime. This can make it difficult to fall asleep if the body is revved up from activity.
Make every effort to organize your life and thoughts. Look for ways to manage day-to-day stress and you will see a drastic impact on your sleep.
Bonus Tip: Know when to contact your doctor
If you are having consistent trouble sleeping, itâ€™s important to contact your doctor. There are many sleeping disorders that require medical management. If you have any concerns about your sleep habits, again, please do not hesitate to contact your doctor.
Our Sleep Disorders Center can help you diagnose and treat a sleep disorder.
Let us know what you need to help you sleep
While it may be difficult to perform these tips while you are hospitalized here at WVMC, we strive to deliver amazing care every time, and we will do everything we can to help you rest comfortably during your hospitalization.
We recognize that everyoneâ€™s sleep patterns are highly individual. People utilize different methods to help them achieve good sleep; some need five pillows, some sleep upright in a chair, some need silence, some have the television on, etc. We understand that every patient has unique sleep needs, and we will make every effort to accommodate these needs.