I have had to completely transform my relationship with sleep.
Maybe it all started when I first heard my farm-bred, hard-working great-grandmother say, “Sleep is the biggest waste of some good, usable time that I’ve ever heard of.” My eight-year-old self didn’t think much of it until I was launched into my teenage years when the competition of “who is operating on the least amount of sleep” game quickly began. Somehow you received a badge of honor for pulling off an all-nighter and showing up at school completely unfazed with that air of untouchable, rebellious confidence. All the while, I would witness my dad heading to work on a mere 4-5 hours of rest, stating there were just never enough hours in the day to get everything done. I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, but a sense of shame around sleeping more than six or seven hours a night began to plague me. Sleep is overrated right? When you have a lot to do, wouldn’t cutting back on your sleep to fit it all in be the most prudent and responsible decision?
EFFECTS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION
It wasn’t until I began to uncover the literal life-saving benefits of sleep (and after having a disastrous all-nighter meltdown in front of a professor) that I began to reevaluate my beliefs. My perception of sleep quickly changed from being an as-needed-basis activity to a precious health secret I needed to rigorously protect. I began to uncover shocking nuggets of information that reinforced the benefit of truly good sleep and the miraculous effect it can have.
- Not getting enough sleep can weaken your immune system and make you vulnerable to various diseases.
- Numerous studies have shown that sleep deprivation increases your chances of having a stroke, developing Alzheimer’s and even getting cancer. [i]
- Weight gain can be a common side effect of getting less than 6 hours of sleep due to hormone imbalance in the body. (Specifically, the appetite-regulating hormone leptin decreases which causes affected eating patterns.) [ii]
- Lack of sleep is proven to accelerate the development of fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced elasticity in the skin due to insufficient recovery time for the skin barrier. [iii]
- A recent study showed that people with insomnia (a disorder that makes it hard to fall or stay asleep) were five times more likely to suffer from depression and 20 times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety. [iv]
- Sleep deprivation increases activity in the amygdala (the emotional center of the brain) and can trigger heightened responses to negative stimuli. This can manifest in increased anger, hyperactivity, aggression, impulsivity and inappropriate social behaviors.[v]
- Research shows that 40% of people with disabilities deal with unique challenges that make them experience long-term sleep difficulties.[vi]
- A recent study revealed that 90% of veterans dealing with combat-related PTSD show symptoms of insomnia.[vii]
- Nocturia, or nighttime urination, can affect up to 80% of seniors, causing major sleep disruptions and problems falling back to sleep.[viii]
As a woman with a spinal cord injury, I can personally attest to the sleepless nights that come with an unpredictable bladder. Incontinence is not just a widespread nighttime issue for seniors - it can also affect those with disabilities, like me, and around 1-2% of the general population. This blog will highlight 12 detailed solutions that will help you achieve the best sleep of your life, along with tips and product suggestions for those of you dealing with nighttime incontinence. Everyone deserves to have a dry and reinvigorating night of sleep! Part 2 will focus on the second set of four solutions for “Optimizing your BODY for sleep.”
Optimizing your BODY for sleep
The position, temperature, daily exertion and comfort of our body play major roles in helping us to achieve optimum sleep. Overlooking these practices can manifest into sleep disturbances and cause seemingly unrelated issues with health and energy throughout your day.
Step #5 - Lower the temperature at night
- FACTS: Our body’s internal temperature changes during a 24-hour period and goes through its coolest period at night, reaching its lowest point around 5 a.m. If the external temperature is too high, the body cannot adequately complete its cooldown and sleep will be disrupted.[ix]
- SOLUTION: Turning down the temperature to between 65-70°F is ideal for optimum sleep and will greatly help internal temperature regulation.
Step #6 - Wear long-lasting incontinence protection
- FACTS: A recent study shows that those with nocturia (nighttime incontinence) experience significantly higher sleep disturbances and fatigue than those without it. One of the best practices shown to mitigate these sleep disturbances is to stay dry by wearing sufficient overnight protection.[x]
- SOLUTION: I have used many incontinence products, but the Attends Premier Overnight Bladder Control pads have been the most absorbent and effective yet. The reasons I believe they are superior to the other products I’ve tried include:
- Higher Comfort Level – They have a breathability that makes users more comfortable while wearing them.
- Less Leakage - Their secure elastic hold and containment core prevents overflow, a must-have for staying dry and not having sleep disruptions.
- Odor Control - They are made of materials that limit escaping smells and help users to maintain dignity and confidence.
Step #7 - Find the right pillow
- FACTS: A poor choice in pillow can cause stiffness, headaches, pain and orthotic issues, leaving many people uncomfortable throughout their day and questioning the source of their pain.
- SOLUTION: Finding a pillow that meets certain qualifications is proven to increase sleep quality immensely. Here are the main things to look out for:
- Ideal pillows are designed with a cool material in order to help reduce sweating and lower body temperature.
- In a recent study, latex, foam contour and polyester pillows performed better than feather or regular foam pillows.[xi]
- Studies show that an important and overlooked characteristic of a pillow is its neck support. This helps to better alleviate muscle and joint pain, while also reducing snoring and other sleep-disorder breathing.[xii]
- Pillows should be chosen based on which position you sleep in:
- Back Sleeper - a thin pillow with a small bump on the bottom third in order to offer neck support.
- Side Sleeper - a firmer pillow with increased thickness to fill the space between the head and shoulder.
- Stomach Sleeper - a very thin pillow or no pillow at all in order to avoid overextending the neck.
Step #8 - Maintain a regular workout schedule
- FACTS: Recent data shows that exercise shortens sleep onset latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) and considerably increases total sleep time.[xiii]
- SOLUTION: We all know that working out is a great way to trim the waistline, but it is often overlooked as one of the best activities you can do to promote great sleep. A workout regimen of 3-4 moderate-intensity workouts per week is a great way to have a deeper, more efficient sleep. Avoid working out within the four-hour window before you go to sleep though, because this can easily disrupt your ability to fall asleep!
Bottom line: sleep is the key to everything we do. It is the source of creating impeccable health, having the energy to pursue our passions, and enjoying the time we are given in this life.
As someone with a disability who is in a vulnerable population for sleep disturbances, I often felt like I was doomed to endure poor sleep. It wasn’t until I took a hard look at the science of sleep that I realized I could turn my sleep ship around.
My first step was committing to a dry, comfortable sleep with Attends Premier Overnight Bladder Control Pads. Other pads that I’ve tried left me feeling uncomfortable throughout the night, with my dignity in the toilet by morning. Not only do the overnight pads help me to get the best sleep I’ve ever had at night, but they also help me to live a bolder, more adventurous lifestyle during the day.
Taking this first step toward owning my sleep journey made me realize how many other changes I could make to get a better night’s sleep. After eventually achieving bladder and sleep schedule control, I was able to change my life in ways that I couldn’t have even imagined. It has boosted my health in a significant way and given me the energy to pursue my dream career and passions. What could better sleep do for your life?