Did you know that you will spend up to one-third of your life sleeping? About 223,000 hours. About 25 years. Yet “feeling tired” on a regular basis seems to be a quality most of us share.
The National Sleep Foundation identified that most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to function at their best during the day, and to keep their body and mind in optimal shape.
Sleep is a basic human body need, much like eating and drinking, and is crucial to our overall health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep and poor-quality sleep are known to have a significant negative impact on our health.
How can you tell if you’re not getting the sleep you need?
Beyond simply feeling unrested, there are a series of signs that may indicate you aren’t sleeping as well as you should. Among the most common are:
Create a relaxing evening ritual. Do things that relax you to create a pre-sleep routine to remove some of your daily stress. Over time, a routine may act as a signal within your brain that it’s time to sleep. Take a warm bath or try other calming activities like meditating, breathing exercises or listening to soothing music as you wind down.
Stick with a routine that includes a predictable sleep schedule. Keep your meals, bedtime and morning alarm consistent, even on the weekends. Maintaining your sleep patterns conditions your body to expect and react accordingly to appropriate times of rest and wakefulness.
Make your bed an oasis. What you sleep on makes a difference. Consider picking up a new mattress or bed as you embark on your journey to improved rest. Experiment with different pillows to find the best one for you. Put your mattress on a slatted base for better air circulation and a reduction in uncomfortable sweating.
Use your bed for sleep. Keep electronics, food and any other stimulating activities out of your bed. This will cue your brain to sleep – and not prepare itself for eating, reading, TV, video games, studying or chatting on the phone when you lie down.
Remove electronics from your bedroom. Screens and electronics are an integral part of our daily lives. The activities associated with them, the light they emit, and the stimulus they provide, make televisions, computers, tablets, phones and other digital items a major hindrance to sleep. Try to unplug at least an hour before bed of the bedroom.
Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark. Removing light, sound and keep your space at a constant temperature to mimic your ideal sleeping conditions. If needed, consider carpeting to cancel noise, installing light-blocking blinds, or use an eye mask to restrict visual distractions.
Steer clear of caffeine and alcohol. In the hours before bed, especially, but also throughout the day, be mindful of your caffeine intake. While some people can enjoy a morning cup of coffee without repercussions, others may find the effects of caffeine linger well into the evening. Read the labels or speak to your pharmacist to ensure you are aware of your daily caffeine intake. Alcohol is known to negatively impact the overall restfulness of sleep and exacerbate breathing issues and restless arms and legs.
Exercise. A well-known stress-reliever, people who exercise regularly (30-60 minutes, three times weekly) also have better quality, deeper sleep, and are, overall, healthier. Exercise also combats obesity, a major risk factor in lack of sleep, sleep apnea, insomnia and daytime sleepiness. Of course, exercise is a natural energy-booster as well, so be sure to get in that workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
Cut out napping. While a quick “power nap” may work wonders for some, when there are issues with sleep, it’s best to stay awake during the day. This makes it easier for your body and brain to anticipate and respond to a consistent waking and sleep routine. If you absolutely must nap, keep it short - no more than 30 minutes.
Avoid going to bed on a full – or empty – stomach. Balanced, healthy meals during the day will help keep your body and blood sugars balanced for optimal sleep. Try to keep meals scheduled and don’t eat large meals right before bedtime. If you’re hungry, have a light, nutritious snack that won’t sit heavily in your stomach or boost your energy. Avoid consumption of high fat foods like chips, ice cream, or fried foods to increase the likelihood of a good quality sleep.
Get up after 30 minutes if you’re unable to sleep. Can’t sleep after a half hour? Don’t worry. Be gentle and understanding with yourself. Remove the pressure and any anxiety by getting up and resetting things. Leave your room for a while and go back to some of your pre-bedtime relaxation activities or rituals before heading back to bed and trying again.
Committing to getting the sleep you need (and employing the methods you need to get it) may go along with some major changes in how you eat, work and even play, which may prove challenging at first. Stick with it! Remember – those extra few hours will benefit your mind and body across the board.
Sleeping is such an important part of a mindful, healthy, balanced life and most of us could use more of it, and its benefits. So, make a point of implementing some new sleep strategies, jump into those pajamas and get those sweet dreams!
Download Your Guide to Healthy Sleep
US Department of Health & Human Services
Watch 8 Reasons Healthy Sleep Should Be Non-Negotiable
Listen to a Positive Sleep Meditation
By Jason Stephenson