Are you in debt? Sleep debt, that is?
The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep – a night. Most of us get 6 hours or less. Yes, some of you need fewer hours to function at optimal level, and I wish I were in this group! Generally speaking, though, most of us lack for adequate sleep.
Caffeinated beverages and supplements offer temporary, quick fixes. However, they’re just that – temporary fixes. They can’t give us what quality sleep can. The fact is, we need sleep. It’s essential to our wellbeing.
Potential consequences from lack of sleep are:
- Weakened immune system
- Heart problems
- Weight gain
- Poor concentration
- Slower reaction time
- Accelerated aging
- And a host of other “fun” side effects.
I know what you’re thinking: “HA! I wish I could get more sleep!” And I’m right there with you! Getting adequate sleep is not always as easy as it sounds. But before resigning ourselves to a life of dark circles under our eyes, perpetual yawning, and daily Starbucks runs, why not give some of the following ideas a try? You might even find yourself getting enough sleep after awhile – what a concept!
Keep to a schedule. This definitely holds true for me! I have learned that my body prefers being on a tight schedule. Going to bed at 1:00 AM one night and 9:30 PM the next is not appreciated, and my body tells me so the next morning! Keeping to a regular schedule maintains the rhythm of our internal body clocks.
Limit caffeine and alcohol later in the day. Oh, I know some of you don’t want to hear this! But consuming either of these can affect your quality of sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it can take 6 or more hours (depending on age, health, if you’re pregnancy or taking oral contraceptives) for it to metabolized and out of your system.
Alcohol is a depressant, so you would think a night cap helps promote good sleep. It may make you drowsy, but it too disrupts that deep, quality sleep your body needs to repair and recharge.
Relax before bed. Bedtime is not the time to plan your exciting Hawaiian vacation, discuss the economy, worry about your child’s future, or argue over what your mother-in-law said about the dinner you cooked last week. Stimulation, stress, and anxiety will keep you wide awake and your mind spinning. Let your body wind down by taking a warm bath or reading a light book. Pray, listen to calming music, just be still. Try spraying the bedsheets with a little bit of lavender. The scent has a calming affect.
Get the right Mattress and Pillow. Is your mattress lumpy? Can you feel the springs underneath you? Do you wake up at 3 AM to find yourself in a deep groove in the middle of the bed? If so, you probably need a new mattress! There is no single, perfect mattress out there. Pick the one that is most comfortable for you. And by all means, try them out before buying! Spend a good 15 minutes testing a mattress on each side of your body and on your back. If you fall asleep, I’m sure a customer sales person will wake you.
Same goes for your pillow. There are many varieties from cotton, to goose down, to foam, to pillows filled with seeds. Choose the one that works for you. And who says you’re only allowed one pillow? Use pillows to support your lower back or between your knees too.
Are you warm/cool enough? If you’re burning up, you won’t sleep well. If you’re shivering, you won’t sleep well either. Make sure you dress properly and have appropriate sheets/bed coverings to keep you at optimal temperature. Lower the thermostat at night, open a window, turn on a house fan, or use a space heater – all of which can adjust the temperature of your room and quite possibly save you money.
Keep the room dark. Light wakes up the body, especially sunlight. Keep the lights off and windows covered. If you sleep during the day, it may be in your best interest to purchase thick window shades to block out the sun.
However, when it’s time for you to get up, expose yourself to lots of sunlight, or at least lots of light. Sunlight will help your body shake the drowiness and wake up more easily.
Turn down the volume. I absolutely need it to be quiet when I sleep! I wish this weren’t so. I get irritated if I hear muffled voices and music from the TV downstairs. When I worked the night shift, I would be irritated whenever I heard lawn mowers and weed cutters outside. I dreaded garbage day too!
Ear plugs are quite helpful if noise keeps you from getting quality sleep. White noise is excellent too. That was what saved me when I worked nights! I kept a fan on while I slept during the day. The constant hum of the fan blocked out other noises and lulled me to sleep.
Don’t overbook yourself. Keeping yourself up late at night with all the things you need to do and get caught up on will cut into your sleep time. Try not to overbook yourself with activities and obligations if possible.
Avoid exercise before bed. A vigorous workout a few hours before bedtime will not help your body relax and may even keep you wired for hours to come. Light stretching and gentle yoga moves are exceptions, that is if they help calm your body and mind and prepare you for sleep.
Now, exercising in the evening is not necessarily something you should avoid. If that’s the only time you can fit it in, then please do it! The point here is to try avoiding exercise and then immediately going to bed. Give yourself some time before hitting the pillow. I know I personally would be too energized to go to sleep after a good workout!
Watch what you eat. A heavy meal followed by bed is not good for sleep, digestion, or your waistline! And the dreams you’ll have will probably be wild and crazy! Try a lighter meal if bedtime is soon to follow. Having a small amount of a complex carb before going to bed will increase your serotonin level too, a chemical that will make you feel calm and mellow.
Turn off the TV and computer! Watching TV late into the night instead of going to sleep is a habit of many, especially if you’re caught up in a good program. And the Internet can be addicting! It’s easy to spend hours blogging, chatting in forums, reading other blogs, and commenting on other sites. Before you know it, it’s way past bedtime! Plus, the bright light from the TV or computer screen will trigger your body to stay awake. When you finally do go to bed, you may still be wound up. (Oh, I don’t like this one either, as I blog at night too. But it is something to keep in mind.)
We all lead busy lives, but please don’t underestimate the importance of sleep. If you’re having trouble getting enough sleep, I hope these tips offer some helpful solutions for you. If you continually have a problem falling asleep and/or staying asleep, you may need to visit your health care provider to rule out a health condition.
What other tips do you have for getting adequate sleep?