Busy schedules and never ending to-do lists make it easy to place a low priority on getting enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 60% of adults report feeling sleep deprived on a regular basis. Getting enough sleep and waking up feeling rested are as important as eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A good night’s rest helps us stay alert and think clearly the next day, and can reduce stress and depression. If you’re cutting back on sleep because you think you don’t need as much, or if anxiety about your job or the economy is causing insomnia, you could be doing more harm to your body than you realize.
Long term sleep deprivation has been linked to a higher risk of the following:
- Heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes
- Being involved in a car accident due to slower reaction time
- Depression and substance abuse
- Inability to concentrate and pay attention
How much sleep is enough?
While sleep needs vary by individual and life stage, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 10-11 hours of sleep a night for school aged children, 8-9 hours for teens, and 7-9 hours for adults.
5 Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
A good way to tell if you’re getting enough sleep is to ask yourself if you feel happy, healthy and productive during the day. If the answer is no, try these five strategies for a better night’s sleep:
- Maintain a consistent schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends, so that your body gets accustomed to a regular schedule.
- Establish a regular bedtime routine. Reading, taking a warm bath, listening to music or quiet meditation before you go to bed can prepare your body for a restful night’s sleep.
- Get comfortable. Invest in a pillow, mattress and bedding that are comfortable and provide adequate support. When it’s time to go to sleep, keep the room dark, quiet, and not too warm or too cold. Turn off any nearby bright lights or noisy distractions.
- Avoid stressful activities before bedtime. Paying bills, working, or exercising strenuously right before you go to bed make it harder to mentally wind down and fall asleep.
- Finish eating two hours before bedtime. Giving your body time to digest after a meal reduces the chance of going to bed with heartburn or feeling bloated. Try to avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, since it can delay sleep, as well as alcohol, which can interrupt sleep.
If you’ve tried the strategies listed above and still have trouble sleeping at night, contact a physician to rule out a medical problem such as depression, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.