Did you realize that you will spend about a third of your life asleep? Yet often we don’t give the same attention to sleep that we give to other necessities, like food and water. This is probably why more than 70 million Americans suffer from dysfunctional sleep or a sleep disorder.
If you’re not getting the seven to nine recommended hours of sleep per night, chances are you feel tired or irritable much of the day. Not getting enough sleep, also known as sleep deprivation, puts you at risk for my health problems, including high blood pressure, exhaustion, mood swings, memory loss and weight gain. Suddenly driving your car becomes an incredibly risky act. Maybe you find that your family and friend relationships are also suffering. In short, there is no aspect of your life that sleep doesn’t touch. And the worse you fall into what is known as “sleep debt,” the more these problems become exaggerated.
Here are some additional symptoms of sleep deprivation you might notice:
- Frequent yawning
- Dozing off in front of the TV
- Difficulty concentrating
- Morning grogginess
- Sudden changes in mood
Recipe for Sleep
For sound sleep, you need to adjust three key ingredients: sound, light, and temperature.
Random bumps in the night or street noises can keep you from your rest, so consider wearing earplugs or using white noise to block distractions. Make sure your phone is on silent so you aren’t woken up by a random, unimportant notification at 2am.
The darker your room can be, the more restful your sleep. So block out streetlight, and consider dimming the lights of your room an hour or so before your bedtime. If you’re looking at a computer or phone screen right before bed, you might be reducing the levels of melatonin in your body, a hormone you need to sleep soundly.
A lower body temperature is an essential ingredient for sleep. A hot shower or bath right before bedtime can help rapidly lower your temperature and relax your mind and body. Keep your room cool, and try sticking a foot or a leg out from under the blankets to lower your body temperature. You might be surprised how quickly it can get to you sleep.
Create a Sleep Routine
Consistency is key when it comes to sleeping. If your schedule allows, try to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, even on the weekends. If might feel majestic to stay in bed until noon on a Saturday, but it will probably leave you feeling more tired when Monday rolls around. You also can train your mind and body to remember when it’s time to sleep if you have bedtime habits. Reading a good book, taking a shower, and laying out clothes for the next day can prepare your body to slow down and prepare for sleep mode.
If you can’t fall asleep, don’t make yourself panic by staring at your clock. Get up and focus your mind on something other than how many hours of potential sleep you have left. Read a few more pages in your book, or listen to a podcast or some music. Think about a funny TV show or a story that makes you smile. Don’t go through your to-do list the next day or focus on worries. If you mentally beat yourself up or lay staring at the ceiling, negative thoughts will accumulate and keep you wide awake.
Make Healthy Choices
What you put into your body impacts how you sleep. Try your best not to feel too full or too hungry right when you go to bed. Hydrate during the day, but limit beverages right before bed that lead to midnight trips to the bathroom. Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine right before bed as well. Exercising during the day can also help you sleep more soundly. Some people find that exercise right before bed can keep you up late, but others find that it helps them settle down.
Ask for Help
Professionals field questions daily from patients about sleep. So never hesitate to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about recommendations for sleep. Considering tracking your sleep habits for a week and bring notes to your next appointment. Often people can get caught up talking about other physical symptoms, and forget to mention their sleepless nights to health care professionals.
When you start applying to sleep strategies for your life, don’t forget that it takes a while for your body to catch up to your mind. You might start a routine and make some adjustments, but then find that it takes a while to get those eight hours a night you’ve been craving. Be patient, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You’ve got a lot of sleeping left to do in your life. Have faith that the right changes can make healthy sleep a reality and not just a dream.