We all know what it feels like: a long day after a night of little or no sleep. Suddenly, the simplest tasks become almost impossible. Work drags on for hours. Memory gets spotty, and even talking to another human can feel like a monumental task. It’s an unpleasant experience but, unfortunately, it’s not a rare one.
According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. While that may seem like a mere inconvenience, it’s a very real health and lifestyle risk. Inadequate sleep is associated with all kinds of chronic and ongoing conditions, including weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and mental distress.
With this in mind, it’s clear that getting enough sleep is an essential factor in good health. The question, then, is how to go about getting enough sleep each night.
Here’s what you need to know:
How Much Sleep is Enough Sleep?
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as well as the Sleep Research Society, adults between the ages of 18-60 should sleep at least seven hours each night to reap the optimal health and wellbeing benefits. Sleeping any less than seven hours each night puts adults at risk of chronic conditions and decreased wellness.
Keep in mind that sleep recommendations vary slightly depending on age. Newborns, for example, sleep 14-17 hours per day, while school-age children need about 9-11 hours of sleep nightly to be healthy.
How to Get The Best Sleep Possible
Considering we sleep for about one-third of our lives, it pays to make sure that sleep is as high-quality and restful as possible. Instead of living in a constant state of sleep debt, use these tips to get the best sleep of your life:
1. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a term that refers to the variety of practices used to ensure sleep quality and full daytime alertness. Since healthy sleep is so essential for physical and mental health, good sleep hygiene is one of the best ways to achieve it. As if that weren’t enough, sleep hygiene can also improve your overall quality of life and make it easier to practice good habits in other areas of your life.
Here are a few tips for good sleep hygiene at home:
- Limit your daytime naps to 30 minutes or less. There is some evidence that a short rest during the day can improve sleep quality at night. The catch, however, comes down to the length of the nap. To avoid interrupting your nocturnal sleep patterns, keep your daily naps to 20-30 minutes maximum. This can boost mood, alertness, and performance, without damaging your nighttime sleep quality.
- Avoid stimulants close to bedtime. Stay away from stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and sugar as it gets close to bedtime. These things will interrupt your natural processes and make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. You may also want to pay special attention to how much alcohol you consume before bed. While liquor is well-known to promote falling asleep, your body’s processing of the alcohol can make staying asleep during the second half of the night especially difficult.
- Exercise. While exercise isn’t something you do right before bed, it can have a major impact on the duration and quality of your sleep. For best results, aim to get in at least 10 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. Walking and cycling are great options and will work hard to improve your sleep quality and promote that pleasant, rested feeling during the day.
- Stay away from spicy food. Spicy food can be disruptive to your sleep patterns. The same goes for fatty, fried meals, citrus fruit, and carbonated drinks. In addition to causing heartburn, these foods can cause your body to kick into overdrive to process the meal, resulting in disrupted sleep and poor-quality rest. If you need a snack right before bed, look for something easy for your body to digest, such as a glass of whole-fat milk, a few tablespoons of almond butter, or a banana.
- Limit exposure to light. This is a critical consideration in the world of sleep hygiene. Instead of making your body fight through bright lights to get to sleep, make your bedroom as dark as possible. Hang blinds and heavy curtains over window, and use black electrical tape to cover the lights on modems or TV equipment. You should also avoid watching television or browsing Instagram on your phone for at least 30 minutes before bed, as the blue light emitted by digital devices can make it harder to get to sleep.
- Wash your sheets. Your bedroom should be a haven. This includes your actual, physical sleep environment. With this in mind, wash your sheets often (at least once a week) to discourage dust mites and allergens. Use hot water and dry them completely before replacing them on the bed.
2. Keep it Cold
Did you know that the temperature of your bedroom can have a major impact on your sleep quality? For best results, Sleep.org recommends keeping your bedroom between 60-67 degrees. The reason for this is simple: your body temperature decreases as you prepare for sleep. If the temperatures in your bedroom are too high to allow for this natural fluctuation, it can be tough to get to sleep. If your room is cool, though, your body decreases its temperature naturally and ebbs into sleep much more easily.
If you’d like to automate this sleep hack, invest in a learning thermostat, like Nest. These nifty devices will memorize your daily habits and adjust the temperature in your home accordingly. This, in turn, makes for restful sleep and more alert days.
3. Develop a Bedtime Ritual
Bedtime rituals are critical for ensuring a great night of sleep. If you’ve ever had a baby, you know exactly how true this is. As a general rule, kids sleep well (and predictably) when held to a schedule. When that bedtime schedule is interrupted, though, it can be tough to put the baby down. While adults may not throw a temper tantrum when their nighttime schedules are interrupted, that doesn’t mean the effect is any less negative.
If you want to promote better sleep this year, a bedtime ritual is a great addition. This doesn’t have to be elaborate or ornate – just a series of things you do reliably, every night, before bed.
For example, maybe you start getting ready for bed an hour before you want to lie down. You shower, brush your teeth, change into your pajamas, and make yourself a cup of chamomile tea. Then you get into bed and read for thirty minutes before falling asleep. This ritual, when practiced on a regular basis, will help alert your body that it’s time for sleep, and may make falling asleep a bit easier.
4. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
For many of us, bedtime is an “anyone’s guess” practice. It fluctuates based on our family’s’ schedules, our social lives, and how much of that new TV show we’re willing to binge watch in a single evening. The same goes for waking up. While those of us with structured work schedules probably wake up at generally the same time each day, there’s plenty of room for snoring and sleeping in on the weekends. Over time, though, these habits can have a negative impact on our sleep quality.
Instead, stick to a sleep schedule, even on the weekends. If you go to bed at ten and wake up at six during the weekdays, carry that through Saturday and Sunday. Sticking to a sleep schedule helps your body get into a pattern, and will go a long way toward creating a more restful space for sleep at night.
Enjoying Better Sleep – Starting Now
Mastering the art of great sleep is a journey, and it doesn’t happen all at once. By understanding what impacts our sleep, though, and how you can game the system to your benefit, you can promote higher-quality sleep and days where you feel happy and well-rested. When combined with a healthy lifestyle, these simple tips can help you feel awake, happy, fit, and ready to face the world.
Do you have concerns about your sleep quality? Are you looking for tips to improve your sleep and enjoy nighttime more? Contact our team to talk with one of our experienced chiropractors today!