The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently declared sleep as a public health epidemic. From staying up at night to not following your internal clock, more and more Americans have reported getting insufficient sleep on a daily basis. This ongoing epidemic can lead to negative effects on your physical and mental health, increasing risk of chronic diseases and loss of focus. It can also lead to severe, and lethal, consequences. Thousands of car crash-related deaths have resulted from people falling asleep at the wheel. Last week, we discussed these issues and more.
Knowing the importance of sleep is one thing, but how do you apply it? Insomnia is becoming a greater problem in the adult population. With an increase of smartphone use and light population, it’s harder to fall and stay asleep. Today we’ll discuss ways you can add a few more hours of slumber to your nightly routine.
First, we should acknowledge that different people have different needs when it pertains to sleep. In Dr. Ferrara and Dr. Gennaro discusses some of these variations in their article on How much sleep do we need?. Sleep can vary based on your demographics. Adult women, for example, typically need a greater amount of hours than men. Similarly, people at a younger age require more sleep in order to properly function. Infants typically need 14-16 hours per night whereas ten year olds can get by on 9-11 hours. Adults, on the other hand, need an average of seven hours.
As for when you sleep, there’s evidence that suggests “morning people” and “evening people” are not just a pop culture phenomenon. If you want to figure out which group applies to you, keep track of when you typically sleep and when you typically wake up. When do you feel rested? When do you feel tired?
Tracking these hours can help you build a sleep schedule, a great way to get better quality sleep. Setting a specific time to sleep every day will establish a regular cardiac rhythm that’ll allow you to wake up refreshed each day. This means that you might want to limit the difference in your schedule. Staying in bed later on the weekends can be tempting, however, science suggests that “catch-up sleep” can have adverse effects on your health. If possible, try to remain on a consistent schedule for all seven days of the week.
If you have trouble falling asleep, there are several things you should try to reduce during the night: light, phone use, and daytime naps. Light, especially the blue glow that comes from your phone, can trick your mind into thinking it’s still daytime. Ways you can limit this effect can be by using a warmer light on your phone through blue-light filter apps. You could also try to do an activity that doesn’t rely on your phone, like reading a book or even watching TV. Similarly, daytime naps make it harder to fall asleep later on. If you do need to take a nap, doing it before 3pm will give enough time to get tired again before bedtime.
Other behaviors can indirectly influence the way you sleep. Regular exercise, for example, will exhaust your body and mind. Eating earlier before bedtime regulates your circadian rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep on time. In other words, sleep can result in staying active and eating healthy, but it can also work the other way around.
Sometimes, you might have problems staying asleep at night. Insomnia can result from various issues, including stress, physical pain, or nightmares. If you wake up, try not to worry too much. Stressing about sleep can make it even harder to fall back into slumber. Instead, choose another activity to do instead. Perhaps you can stretch, read a book, or eat a midnight snack. Or, if you’re still tired, try lying down and simply closing your eyes. This helps relax your muscles and internal organs, as well as calm down an overactive mind. So, even “resting your eyes” in bed can lead to several benefits.
In today’s culture, it may feel like you have to fill all your time with productivity or entertainment. This makes it easy to neglect sleep in favor of eating more healthy or physical activity. However, sleep has the ability to impact all areas of our lives. To improve your night, try setting a specific schedule and limiting your phone usage before bed. What does your sleep schedule look like? What do you like to do before bed? Comment some ideas down below!