Sleeping may seem like the least exciting part of your day. After all, you’re just lying there missing all the fun, right? Actually, the opposite is true. The hours when you’re hitting the pillow are extremely productive, helping to restore vital brain chemicals and rejuvenate your body. Without enough sleep, you’re not only groggy the next day, you may actually be jeopardizing your health.
The eye-opening truth is, chronic lack of sleep can increase your risk for: obesity, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, depression, aging skin, accidents and injuries and more. Getting the proper amount of sleep can help:
- Improve your mental well-being
- Strengthen your immune system
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Ward off heart disease & diabetes
- Fight off depression & mood swings
- Clear your thinking for improved memory, creativity & focus
- Curb inflammation
- Prevent weight gain
- Increase your sex drive
- Lessen chronic pain
Are you getting enough sleep? At least 1 in 3 adults aren’t. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than a third of all U.S. adults routinely sleep fewer than 6 hours a night. That is not enough sleep for most of us!
Sleep requirements can vary from person to person, but most adults need 7-9 hours per night (teenagers 8-10 hours, children 9-14 hours, babies 12-17 hours). Pregnant woman can require more sleep, and older adults may find themselves sleeping for shorter periods, more often.
Getting enough sleep is also just as important as getting good sleep. To qualify as good, it should be both restful and uninterrupted. Good sleep takes you through the five stages of slumber several times a night, including deep sleep and REM. Here are some tips to help you get the best sleep possible:
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. It might be tempting to sleep until noon on Saturday, but that will only disrupt your natural sleep-wake cycle, making it harder to fall asleep. Eventually, if you get enough sleep, you should wake naturally, without an alarm clock. If you still need an alarm, you probably need an earlier bedtime.
- Cut the caffeine. After 2 p.m., say o to coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and other possible stimulants, which can keep you awake at night. Caffeine can also fool you into thinking you need less sleep than you do, setting you up for a vicious sleep cycle.
- Nix the nightcap. Even though a drink may help you fall asleep faster, it can actually disturb your deep sleep later on and leave you feeling tired in the morning. Once the alcohol wears off, you’re apt to wake up and then have trouble falling back to sleep. If you like a glass of wine in the evening, have it with dinner—not right before bed.
- Start moving. In a study of insomnia sufferers, women who got aerobic exercise four times a week boosted their sleep quality from poor to good. These one-time couch potatoes also reported fewer symptoms of depression, more energy and less daytime sleepiness. Just be sure to finish your workout well before bedtime so you’re not too hyped up to nod off.
- Keep it dark and quiet. The darker your bedroom is, the better you’ll sleep. Even the smallest amount of the light from your cellphone can suppress melatonin production, telling your brain it’s time to wake up. So turn off your cell, wear a sleep mask, or get blackout shades to make your room darker. If you still need a nightlight use a red bulb.
- Stay cool. Most people sleep better in a room that’s slightly cool. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the temperature in your bedroom should be somewhere around 65°F for optimal sleeping.
Once you establish a healthy sleep routine, keep it going! If you stay up past your bed time every once in a while, don’t worry. The body is remarkably forgiving as long as you don’t make a habit of abusing it. Just get back on your sleep schedule, follow the tips you’ve learned and let your natural body clock go to work for you.