Most people love to sleep, yet getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge. We might have trouble falling asleep at night, only to wake up after a few hours of sleep, feeling unrested yet unable to fall back asleep. Unfortunately, sleep is a difficult task to tackle. Sometimes your mind just isn’t listening to your body. Even if you feel exhausted, it’s possible to toss and turn for hours on end. You might even feel like sleep deprivation is a natural part of aging. It’s not uncommon to hear of older people speaking about their lack of sleep, and thus a lack of sleep becomes the norm. However, sleep remains one of the most important parts of your health for your entire life. A good night’s sleep never gets old!
We Need Sleep
A night of good, restful sleep is a basic human need, yet it is often entirely looked over in the medical world. The CDC found that 19% of adults in the United States report not getting enough sleep or rest every day. This feeling of a lack of sleep is called sleep deprivation and it occurs when you don’t get enough hours of sleep on any given night, when you sleep at the wrong time of day, or don’t get quality sleep. Sleep deprivation leaves adults feeling unrefreshed in the morning or feeling tired throughout the following day. The negative effects of a lack of sleep can cause serious harm to our overall health and well being.
What Happens When We Don’t Sleep?
Our culture insists on getting the most out of every single day, even if that means that sleep is a second priority. You have probably even heard that the most successful people only get 4-5 hours of sleep every night. The early bird gets the worm, right? While we value taking advantage of our days, it means that more often than not we are missing out on the most important things that sleep can bring to our health, and it’s leaving us at a disadvantage.
A lack of a good night’s sleep increases the risk of age-related cognitive dementia, leads to a lack of productivity, poor memory, emotional well-being, and concentration. When we sleep, our brain naturally stores memories. When sleep is unrestful and disruptive, we are missing out on a major portion of our brain’s ability to naturally take care of everything we did in a day.
Sleep deficiency is also associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and depression. Furthermore, a restful night of sleep will leave you feeling less fatigued in the morning, which leads to less of a risk of falling as you are more cognizant and aware during waking hours.
You’re probably convinced at this point. Sleep is important. Now that we know why sleep is so important, let’s dig into how you can improve your nightly sleep.
How to Improve Your Sleep
The first step you can take towards improving your sleep is focusing on creating your ideal sleep environment. The ideal sleep environment will differ from person to person but anyone can set up a sleep environment to facilitate better rest.
First, set up an ideal nighttime routine that works for you, so that every night your body knows that you are preparing yourself for sleep. You can begin by preparing for what tomorrow will hold so that you can fall asleep with confidence.
Next, do some light exercise. A heavy workout will energize you too much before bed, but some light stretching or a few yoga poses are a great way to put your body into a state of relaxation.
Set a bedtime and try to stick to it. If you set a time to go to bed and wake up every day, your body will naturally get tired around the same time every night and naturally wake up at the same time every morning. Your body is smarter than you might think, and setting an internal body clock is part of your natural sleep cycle.
Throughout this pre-bedroom ritual, try to stay away from electronics. Keeping electronics out of the bedroom is likely the easiest way to stick to this rule, but it’s really important to stay away from them for at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Electronics set off a bright, blue light that is quite disruptive for sleep. A better practice would be to read, write in a journal, or work on a crossword puzzle to put your body into a relaxed state.
Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature. People tend to sleep better in a cool room as your body heats up throughout the night.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, focus on your breathing. The counting sheep method might work for some, but you can also focus on counting deep and meaningful breaths.
Sticking to the rules that you create for yourself will help you find a relaxing environment that should make falling asleep a breeze. It might take a few weeks and some trial and error before you find a routine that works for you. Change things up until you find what works for you and before you know it you will be a sleeping-pro. Daily habits can be created, and will leave your body feeling healthy and happy… and well-rested!