Sleep – it seems as if you can never get enough. You go to wake up tired, go through your day tired and fall into your bed tired, only to lay there, zillions of thoughts about your day zipping through your mind. When will you ever get a good night’s rest? Is it just you?
No, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 50 to 70 million adults have problems with sleep; they add that inadequate sleep is “a public health problem.” Lack of sleep, or inadequate sleep (sleep that is not deep), can lead to:
- Falling asleep at the wheel, even during daylight hours
- Difficulty performing daily tasks
- Reduced quality of life and productivity
It’s no wonder chronic lack of sleep, with its accompanying problems and illnesses, is a real concern.
How much sleep do you need?
The amount of sleep you need changes as you age. The national institutes of health (NIH) recommends children, including teenagers, need between nine and 10 hours of sleep each night; adults need between seven and eight hours. Yet most adults are getting less than six hours of sleep and high school children less than eight.
Obviously, you’ll need more sleep if you are stressed, either physically or emotionally. A stressful job, the flu, surgery or family issues are all reasons to add extra hours of sleep to your day. However, those are also reasons why you’re not getting good, quality sleep with an average of seven or eight hours each night.
The bedtime routine
Experts agree – the best way to get a good night’s sleep is to have a set bedtime routine; you have one for your kids, why shouldn’t you have one yourself? The National Sleep Foundation has a list of tips and tricks to getting regular, quality sleep:
- Eat your biggest meal at lunchtime. Eating a heavy meal in the evening, especially later in the evening, can keep your system awake and active, leading to gastric reflux, heartburn and nausea.
- Skip the alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes at night. Obviously, both alcohol and cigarettes have health complications of their own. Caffeine and cigarettes are stimulants, which will fool the sleep receptors in your brain into thinking you have more hours to be awake. Alcohol may help you go to sleep, but the result is bad-quality sleep; long-term alcohol before bed leads to a vicious cycle of needing more sleep without being refreshed by it, leading to more drinking.
- Have a wind-down routine. Get into the habit of winding down the same way every night. Listen to quiet music or enjoy some silence. Read, take a warm shower, do whatever it takes to get yourself into a more sleep-ready frame of mind. Jerri, a single mother of three from Oregon, says she has a routine of reading to each of her children every night after their baths, starting with the youngest; this helps her wind down, because she’s snuggling her kids, reading and relaxing them, which relaxes her. Once they’re in bed, Jerri takes a warm shower, sprays some lavender on her pillows and gets into bed to read. She says, “Most nights, when I follow this routine, I’m asleep within 30 minute and wake ready to take on the next day.”
- Exercise. You don’t have to run marathons every day for exercise to help you sleep. Ben, a New York financial planner, says, “Just before it’s bedtime, my wife and I take our dog for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood. Even in the winter. The nightly walk gives us time to talk, laugh and reconnect after our hectic days.”
- Cool down. Surprisingly, the best temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees; most sleep with the bedroom temperature above 70. Your body cools in the evenings, signaling other areas of your brain that it’s time to sleep. Keep the bedroom cooler and adding a blanket or two will ensure the best environment for sleep.
- Opt for comfortable bedding. Bedding plays important role in the kind of sleep you are going to get. While the comfortable bedding can ensure you the smooth sleep throughout the night, on other hand, an uncomfortable bedding will keep you awake throughout the night. While buying designer flat sheets, you must keep comfort your topmost priority. Cotton flat sheets are one of the most comfortable, though it works on simple principle, the more thread count is, the smoother you will sleep.
- Turn off the lights and the noise. George, a Michigan teacher, said he couldn’t sleep unless the TV was on which is why George has had chronic sleep problems. The problem was that he needed sound to keep his brain from swirling thoughts around, keeping him awake. When he went for a sleep study. George’s doctor suggested turning off the lights and the TV at a set time every night and using a sleep-inducing app on his phone, with ambient sound, like a fan or a rainstorm. Julie, a firefighter in Texas, uses a box fan and ear plugs to keep the noise out.
Sleep is one of the basic necessities to maintain a healthy life. Set yourself up for the best night’s sleep by planning ahead, relaxing and putting the lights out.