If you are like most American adults, you do not get enough sleep. While the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends people get between seven and nine hours each night, most people do not get that. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that getting less than seven hours of sleep at night has some serious health consequencres such as an increased risk for Diabetes, heart disease and stroke. At least one quarter of Americans suffer from insomnia (this costs the United States economy about $63 billion due to low productivity, according to a recent Harvard University study). The good news is that there are ways you can improve your sleep.
- Practice good sleep hygiene techniques.The first step in this is to set a sleep schedule and keep to it. This means you need to go to sleep at the same time every night (or day) and get up at the same time. By doing this You train your body to go to sleep when you want it to. As you get used to going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, you help your entire system learn how to get to sleep and have longer periods of undisturbed sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine right before bed. Most people know not to drink a double espresso after dinner but many also see a glass of wine before bed as a good way to relax. It might help you unwind but the alcohol does interfere with your body’s sleep schedule and prevent you from entering deeper stages of sleep. You may feel drowsy after that merlot but it will interfere with your sleep cycle and can preven you from getting the deep sleep your body needs.
- Use your bed for sleep only.When you read or watch TV in bed, you train your body to do things other than sleep so when you want to drift off, it is harder. Just like developing a sleep schedule helps you train your body to go to sleep at a certain time, using your bed only for sleep trains it to fall asleep when you are in bed. This can be a great way to really improve the connection between your bed and sleep. When you go to bed, if you find you are still awake after 20 or 30 minutes, get up and do something else for a while.
- Do not eat a large meal just before you go to bed./strong>Many people avoid eating a large or spicy meal just before bed because they have acid reflux but there are other reasons to avoid a large meal at the very end of the day. When you go to bed for sleep, you should be neither totally full or hungry. This can improve your comfort while sleeping.
- Avoid screens before bedtime.When your eyes register light, certain chemicals are released in your brain that tell it to stay awake. Sunlight will do this but so does the light from a television, smart phone or tablet. If you want to read before you go to sleep, get a real book or magazine. Some Kindles do have a setting that is more like a book in terms of the display you see. Either way, looking at most screens will do more to keep you awake so avoid them if you can.
- Exercise earlier in the day.Exercise is a great way to improve the quantity and qaulity of the sleep you get. Geting some aerobic exercise early in the day will help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. You do not want to do this right before you go to bed as it can also wake you up to the point where
- Do something relaxing.Take a hot bath or soothing shower before you crawl into bed. You can also meditate or do some light stretching. Some people say that they have a hard time “turning their brain off” when they go to bed and that this upsets their sleep schedule. Meditation can do wonders to improve the quality of your sleep.
It can be very unhealthy to not get enough sleep. Follow these tips to get more sleep and be healthier and happier while you are awake.