Lack of Sleep is a Hidden Epidemic
Most people wish they could get more sleep and feel more rested from the sleep they get. However, attitudes toward lack of sleep have created a culture where it is normal to never get enough sleep and to feel tired all day as a result. Polls show that 7 in 10 Americans feel that they experience sleep problems regularly over the span of a year.
Fortunately there are many easy solutions to solving this hidden epidemic. Below is a list of 5 tips to help you sleep better and feel more rested each day. Some people just need a few extra minutes of snooze time, while others may suffer from server chronic sleep disorders. This list is designed to take the reader from the easiest and simplest solutions through to the more serious changes to lifestyle or medical treatment. Use this list to find what works for you.
1. Reduce or Avoid Electronics, Caffeine, Heavy Meals, Alcohol and Cigarettes in the Evening
These are the easiest things to change to ensure that you start getting a better night’s sleep right away. Most of these are bad habits that are easily avoided. Try changing your habits one at a time to find the right balance for you.
- Electronics: The light from your devices passes into the hypothalamus and slows the release of melatonin, which is an essential sleep-inducing hormone. Try powering everything down at least 30 minutes before you intend to sleep.
- Caffeine: The effects from caffeine can last anywhere from 4-6 hours, which puts that after-dinner coffee well in the range of interfering with a good night’s sleep.
- Heavy Meals: Your body needs around 2-3 hours to properly digest food so it does not keep you up at night. Avoid spicy meals for dinner if you find that indigestion is keeping you up.
- Alcohol: Alcohol can make you feel sleepy and may help you fall asleep more quickly, but it actually has a negative impact on the quality of rest that you get when it is active in your system. Try to avoid alcohol for at least 4 hours before you go to bed.
- Cigarettes: Nicotine is a strong stimulant that actually makes it harder to fall asleep in the first place and then stay asleep after. If you smoke, try to avoid having a cigarette at least 2 hours before you got to bed.
2. The Right Way to Nap
Napping can be a great way to get that little bit of extra rest in a day. On the other hand, it can also throw off your sleep schedule and be a sign that you have a chronic sleep disorder. The key to benefiting from naps is to know when to take them and for how long. The best time to take a nap is usually in the middle of the afternoon, around 2-3 p.m. You are most likely to start feeling that after lunch grogginess and lower level of mental alertness, so this is the best time to settle in for some quick shut-eye. Naps taken later in the day are more likely to interfere with your nightly sleep schedule and naps earlier in the day are a sign that you are severely over-tired. Try not to nap for more than 10-30 minutes, so set an alarm. 30 minutes should be more than enough to rest your eyes and recharge your brain. Anything more and you risk disrupting your sleep schedule in the coming evening.
3. Learn to Relax Before Bed
One of the major reasons that people do not get enough restful sleep is stress and anxiety. Modern life is hectic, and if you spend all of your time worrying, you will find it difficult to fall asleep at night. Sleep should be a time where you put everything aside and relax, so that you can recharge to face the day tomorrow. Try a few of these tricks to help you find a comfortable routine for winding down before bed:
- Write down your worries to get them out of your head
- Only use your bed for sleep and intimacy, not work
- Create a comfortable environment for relaxation and sleep, so put on your best bed sheets
- Busy your brain with mental exercises right before bed to distract yourself and wind down your mental activity
- Focus on the positive instead of worrying about things you cannot fix while lying in bed in your pajamas
- Practice relaxation exercises or perform yoga an hour before retiring
- Think about what’s stealing your sleep and boosting your anxiety, and then solve it
- Use a white-noise machine if that helps you relax
4. Establish a Regular Sleep Pattern and Stick to It
The previous three tips are little changes that you can try to get a little bit more sleep and more restful sleep each night. If you have more serious sleep problems or have already tried all of the above tips, then it might be time for a more serious solution. If your lack of sleep is seriously affecting your health, productivity and relationships, then you need to make some drastic lifestyle adjustments.
Instead of just trying a few of the previous hints, use them all. Eat healthy in the evening and avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine altogether. Establish a strict schedule for when you turn of your electronic devices and when you start relaxing before bed. Find a pre-sleep routine that works for you to help you wind-down and clear your mind. Finally, stick rigidly to your routine for a while until your body naturally adjusts to this new rhythm. In our hectic modern world with the stresses of jobs, relationships and kids it can be difficult to make a strict sleeping routine work. However, if you are regularly exhausted, then you cannot perform any of these functions well. Combine the options from the first three tips and make a sleep schedule that works. You deserve to be well-rested, and everyone in your life will benefit from it as well.
5. See a Sleep Specialist
If you are still having trouble getting enough sleep after all of the previous tips, then it is time to talk to your doctor about seeing a sleep specialist. Many serious chronic sleep disorders go undiagnosed because people think it is normal to always be tired. Some chronic sleep disorders are completely out of your control and can only be treated properly by trained medical specialists, so do not think that you need to solve your sleep problems all by yourself. If the first 4 tips in this list have failed to help you sleep better, do not wait another day to contact your doctor for a referral.
Get the Rest You Need and Deserve
It is time for people to drop the macho attitude toward the problem of sleep. Sleep is one of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle, and people are more productive and happier when they are well-rested. Start from the first tip and work your way down until you achieve the rest you need and deserve.
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