Stress, insomnia, a demanding career, a toxic lifestyle, being ever connected to your phone, bad sleeping habits and a lot of other factors are causing even the best of us to skip out on one of the best things we can gift to our bodies: a good night’s sleep.
Whilst some might decide that losing a few hours of sleep here and there isn’t so bad if it means getting in on some more hours at work, family time or a social life, the lack of sleep is detrimental to our physical well-being.
Sleep deprivation is becoming a really big problem in society today. It’s gotten so bad that it is estimated that in the United States alone, 100,000 deaths are caused by medical errors and sleep deprivation.
Not to mention the other problems that a bad sleep pattern can cause such as fatigue, stress and diminished alertness.
Sleep by numbers
The statistics on sleep only point to the obvious; the quality of sleep that our ancestors once truly enjoyed is not prevalent in today’s society any longer. According to statistics from the American Sleep Association.
40 percent of adults aged 40-59 years old report a short sleep duration, which is commonly also known as sleep deprivation, but it’s not just people in the middle of their lives who are being affected.
As much as 37 percent of 20-39 year-olds are also deprived of an adequate amount of sleep every night. In total more than 35 percent of adults get less than 7 hours of sleep each day.
And what’s the average sleep need in the adult age group? 7-9 hours each day, far from what some of us are getting each night.
Let’s say that you’ve taken the big decision to allocate a couple of extra hours for some time in bed, you lay there, tossing and turning, after what seems to be a few minutes you end up checking the time, it is 3 in the morning and you have never been more awake in your life.
However, it’s not just the inability to sleep that’s the problem; 50-70 million American adults are currently suffering from one form of a sleep disorder or another.
The fact of the matter is; we need to get an adequate amount of sleep every night. The lack of sleep has been linked to a number of severe medical conditions that can occur in the long run such as heart disease and diabetes.
A week with bad sleep can result in your body being – and feeling – tired, cause impairments in your normal cognitive abilities, and affect your mood. So here are 10 things you can do today to improve your sleep pattern.
1) Schedule bedtime and wake time
Have a pattern and stick to it. Inconsistent sleep times can confuse your body and leave you feeling exhausted on most days. The first step in fixing your sleep pattern is scheduling an appropriate bedtime and wake time.
You’ll have to make sure that you strictly adhere to these times. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to adjust your schedule immediately so it advisable that you work in 15-minute increments each day until you hit your desired time.
If you’re used to going to bed at a certain time, start by adjusting that schedule by 15 minutes each day.
Sleeping in on weekends could be a concern for most of us as it is the only time where we can be able to “catch up” on some well-deserved rest. However, it is important that you don’t sleep-in for more than one to two hours.
This is the best way to ensure that your circadian rhythm – or your body clock – won’t fall out of sync with your sleep scheduling.
2) Exercise really helps
We all know the overall health benefits of exercise, it releases “feel good” hormones, boosts your vitality and keeps you in shape, but did you know just around 15 minutes of light exercise can improve your sleep pattern.
It can just be a short walk around the block or choosing to take the stairs, but it does wonders to your quality of sleep. It reduces stress, gets you a little tired, and increases body temperature.
The body temperature increase is great because as soon as your body drops temperature it can trigger sleepiness a few hours later.
With that being said you shouldn’t exercise too close to bedtime, you can pick a time after work or during your downtime.
3) Invest in the quality of your “sleep equipment”
Is your mattress more than 10 years old? Then it’s time to change it. Sometimes getting yourself to sleep is just a matter of improving your “sleeping equipment” aka your bed, beddings, pillows etc.
A comfortable bed can relax your body and allow you to get to sleep properly. It helps you enjoy quality sleep and ensure that your body is properly supported and rested at the same time.
Don’t make dinner your biggest meal of the day and instead keep it generally light. While you’re at it, avoid food that might give you indigestion or has caused you discomfort before.
Make sure you have your meal several hours before bedtime too so that it won’t disturb your sleep. Get in a lot of fluids as well so you do not have to wake up thirsty in the middle of the night.
5) Get off your phone (and any other screen for that matter)
This is a quick fix that you can implement today. Your harmless laptop, smartphone or tablet can stimulate brain activity and it could disrupt your sleep. Exposure to a tablet screen can reduce melatonin levels by around 20 percent, and melatonin is a hormone that helps put you in a sleepy state.
6) Napping with caution
This differs from person-to-person, but sometimes the cause of your restlessness and alertness during the night is the afternoon nap. Whilst quick naps can improve your cognitive abilities and alertness, naps can also destroy the potential for a good night’s rest. If you have to nap, a good rule of thumb is to nap before 5 p.m. and keep them short.
7) Develop a bedtime ritual
A bedtime ritual is not only important in signaling to your body that it’s bedtime soon, but it also helps you relax and de-stress. There are many ways to improve your bedtime routine and get you ready to sleep.
Whether it be a warm shower, some television, a cup of chamomile tea, catching up on your reading, or a chat with your spouse, let it be a routine that puts your mind at ease. Avoid anything stimulating or psychologically demanding as this can disrupt your ability to fall asleep easily.
8) Still can’t Sleep? Then, don’t.
We all have this common tendency to force ourselves to sleep, but it is often counterproductive to our goal.
If you really cannot get yourself to sleep, leave your bedroom and go into another room to read a book, listen to some soothing music, or even meditate until you feel relaxed enough to fall asleep.
Forcing yourself to sleep when you cannot only leads to frustration and clock watching, which can be really taxing. We have to remember that sleep is supposed to be a restful experience, not a stressful one.
9) Your bedroom environment matters
Your bedroom is an intimate place, it is not the place to balance your checkbook or catch up on work.
Make sure that your bedroom environment is conducive to relaxation, set the temperature to a comfortable one, dim the lights and invest in curtains that block out light from the outside.
Another great tip is to control the amount of “noise” in the bedroom; nobody likes the ambient noise of the street interfering with your sleep. White noise sleep sounds can generate noise that can mask disruptive sounds. Whatever you do, just make sure that your bedroom allows you to relax.
10)Don’t give up
There are a lot of quick things that you can do to improve the quality of your sleep and the effectiveness of your sleep pattern today. However, you also have to make the commitment to see it through to the end.
Immediately switching from bad sleep habits to healthy ones is also a gradual process, so give it some time until your body fully adapts.
Hopefully, these tips will help you achieve better sleep and enjoy the numerous benefits of being well rested.
Leury Pichardo is an organics health nerd by day and writer by night. He’s constantly out on the search for the best natural solutions to various health issues. Leury is a strong believer that prevention is key, but Mother Nature is a locksmith!