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We get a new report on sleep from the CDC most years and in every report, one thing is obvious - over one-third of Americans are not getting enough sleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the Sleep Research Society, and the National Sleep Foundation all agree that adults under the age of 65 need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night to fully function. This means that well over 100,000 million Americans are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
Why should we be worried about the fact that we or the people around us are not getting enough sleep?
Well, not getting enough sleep has a negative effect on nearly every part of our body - it affects our memory, our immune system, our blood pressure, our sex drive, and even our balance. Not getting enough sleep is also detrimental to our mental health.
However, there is good news, if you start getting enough sleep you can reverse the majority of this damage and enjoy some extra benefits as well. So, if you are wondering how you can start getting more sleep on a regular basis then you have come to the right place.
The Benefits Of Getting Enough Sleep
We could spend half of this article talking about the dangers of not getting enough sleep and scare you into trying to go to bed early tonight.
Instead, we want to take this time to share with you ways that getting enough sleep can actually improve your life.
1. Better Mental Health
According to the Mental Health charity Mind, people who sleepmore worry less and are more at peace with their lives.
When you are struggling with your mental health, getting a full night's sleep can be difficult, and not getting enough sleep makes your mental health worse. It is a vicious cycle. But employing methods that will help to improve your sleep will help to improve your mental health too.
Well-rested brains produce more serotonin and being well-rested makes it easier for you to process information and your emotions, as well as solve problems.
2. A Healthier Heart
The reason our blood pressure rises when we don't sleep is that one of the primary side effects of sleep is our heart rate dropping.
If you only sleep for 4 hours a night then that means that your heart is working harder for 20 hours rather than 16. It means that your blood pressure is likely to rise too.
So, taking those extra 3-4 hours of sleep means that you can allow your heart and blood vessels time to recover and rest. You could see your high blood pressure slowly disappearing over time.
3. Improves Your Athletic Performance
This is a great benefit for everyone, even people who aren't professional athletes.
If you are trying to lose weight then you will find that easier when you are sleeping enough. You will be able to work out harder or run for longer distances.
You will also see a benefit outside the gym - walking up the stairs will feel less exhausting, cycling to work won't be so draining, and you'll even find cleaning your home easier.
It sounds really obvious, but if you want to have more energy then you need to sleep more.
4. Focusing Will Become Easier
Our memories are solidified and created when we sleep.
What we mean by that is that our body doesn't create the neural pathways and locations where we store memories, facts, and new skills that we have learned until we fall asleep.
The less you sleep, the less time your brain has to store all this information.
Not sleeping also makes it a lot harder to store the information you already have. The span of your concentration will shrink too.
Spend more time sleeping and you will remember more and you will be able to make better use of your time.
15 Proven Tips to Get A Better Sleep
Now that you know why you should be sleeping more, it's time to look at how you can make that happen.
A lot of these tips are biological and psychological hacks that take the natural functions in your body and work with them, rather than against them. You will find this process allows you to work smarter and not harder.
Today, we are going to get you started on your journey to better sleep by sharing 15 game-changing tips with you.
All of our bodies work differently, so some of these tips may be more effective than others for you. But we do recommend that you take the time to try them all out.
1. Increase Bright Light Exposure During The Day
This tip will help you to take control of and work with your circadian rhythm to help you to get a better night's sleep.
Your circadian rhythm is your body's natural sleep-wake cycle that is based on when the sun rises and sets. It is believed that we developed our circadian rhythm when humanity was a group of hunter-gatherers. It allows us to rest during the night and be awake during the day.
When it is time for us to go to sleep our body releases melatonin - a hormone that makes us tired. Our body knows to do this when it gets dark outside. However, not exposing ourselves to enough bright light and sunlight throughout the day can stop this melatonin release.
If you want to sleep more easily then you should spend more time in bright light as well as darkening our overhead lights as it gets later. This will create a great contrast between what your brain thinks is day and what it thinks is night.
Your circadian rhythm will take care of the rest.
If you want to read more about the origins of our circadian rhythms and why we have them then you should check out the Nobel prize-winning work of Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young.
2. Reduce Blue Light Exposure In The Evening
Lack of bright light is not the only thing that is throwing off our circadian rhythms. Blue light is another issue we should be aware of.
Blue light comes from screens and is processed in the same way that our body processes sunlight. So, your body thinks that you could be outside in the sun when you are looking at a bright laptop screen.
Blue light itself is not bad.
It does start to have a negative effect on us when we expose ourselves to it later in the evening.
Because blue light does such a good job at replicating sunlight, when we look at a screen in the evening, our body delays producing melatonin because it still thinks it is daytime.
If you want to prevent this from happening then you should put away all your screens around 2-1 hours before you want to go to sleep.
In these two hours, you could try out tip number 12 on this list, read, or even take some time to work on another one of your hobbies.
3. Don’t Consume Caffeine Later In The Day
With this tip, we are not telling you to give up caffeine, but we are recommending that you are more conscious about when you consume it.
Most of us drink caffeine to make us feel more awake. We are all aware of its side effects. What most people aren't aware of is how long it can take the side effects of coffee to wear off.
While a cup of coffee might only keep you feeling energized for a few hours - studies show that it can affect your body's ability to produce melatonin for up to 7 hours.
This means that if you want to be asleep by 11 pm then you will need to have your last cup of coffee between 4-6 pm.
A lot of people are also not aware of the other items in our diet that contain caffeine. Coffee is something that everyone knows about, but chocolate and cola drinks also contain a large amount of caffeine.
Tobacco also has a very similar effect on our bodies as caffeine does. If you are smoking late at night then you are going to find it harder to sleep.
You should be conscious of when you consume these items.
4. Reduce Long Daytime Naps
Sometimes taking a nap in the middle of the day is unavoidable and many of us find that it helps with our productivity.
However, the key to a successful daytime nap is the length of the nap. If you let your afternoon nap go on for too long then you can actually throw off your circadian rhythm and ruin your chances of sleeping well that night.
Our circadian rhythm has our body produce melatonin at the end of the day so that we can rest. If we have taken a long nap during the day then it will delay your evening production of the hormone.
Your body will not produce the hormone melatonin because it already feels rested, even if you didn't nap for 8 hours. You will struggle to fall asleep and then feel even more inclined to take a long nap the next day.
When you are taking a nap during the day, you should be strict with yourself. Do not let yourself sleep for longer than an hour and a half. Try to avoid sleeping after 2 pm as well.
If it is later than 2 pm and you feel the need to nap then you should expose yourself to bright light or have a cup of coffee.
5. Try To Sleep And Wake At Consistent Times
We can most effectively work with our bodies' natural cycles if we are consistent.
It takes our mind 90+ days to form a habit and get used to a change in routine. Sometimes it can take our bodies even longer.
If you are getting up at 5 am one day and 11 am the next with no pattern to your actions then your body is not going to be able to keep up with you.
If you want to guarantee that you regularly get enough sleep then you are going to have to create habits and routines that allow you to be consistent.
You want to make sure that as often as possible you are going to bed at the same time every day and waking up at the same time every day. It is okay to occasionally break from these patterns, but you should try to stick to them 90% of the time.
You will find that the more consistent you are, the faster you will fall asleep and the more refreshed you will feel when you wake up in the morning.
When it comes to sleep, consistency is key.
6. Take A Melatonin Supplement
As we have talked about, our bodies produce melatonin to make us sleepy. There has been some research done into whether taking melatonin supplements could aid sleep.
The research suggests that melatonin could be used as a short-term solution to help with sleep problems. It appears to be most effective on those over 55 and can be prescribed by a doctor for a range of sleeping disorders.
However, it is recommended that it should not be taken unless there is a chemical imbalance in the body that prevents the body from producing melatonin correctly. It should not be taken without medical advice.
There are other supplements that are more appropriate for helping people to improve their sleep - CBD oil is one of these options.
Note, you should always talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement to help you sleep. Melatonin can be prescribed by a doctor but is typically only prescribed in the short term to adults over 55.
You should not take it if you have kidney problems, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or lupus, or any other autoimmune condition. It is only recommended to under 55s and children on rare occasions.
7. Consider How Your Diet Impacts Your Sleep
We have already talked about how you can find caffeine in unexpected food and how this might be causing people to damage their chances of sleep without knowing.
But, there are many other ways that what we eat can affect how we sleep.
One of the most obvious ingredients you should consider cutting down on is sugar. Sugar messes with our blood sugar levels - causing them to spike and crash incredibly quickly.
When our blood sugar levels are out of sync with our circadian rhythm our bodies can struggle to tell when we are tired. Therefore, it can release melatonin at completely the wrong time or not at all.
If you are looking for better sleep then you should consider introducing more almonds into your diet. There are chemicals in almonds that can be broken down by our bodies and turned into melatonin. If your body is struggling to produce enough melatonin, almonds could improve your sleep.
New studies into fatty fish have shown that regular consumption of it could make you a happier person and also help you to sleep better. Fatty fish is high in Omega 3 and in Vitamin D. A series of new studies have shown that this combination makes the body produce more serotonin and melatonin.
8. Consider If You Are Getting Enough Exercise
Exercise can be a really useful tool when it comes to improving your sleep - especially if you have mental health issues.
Well, all know that exercise can help us to lose weight, improve our brain function, improve the health of all our major organs, improve our skin, and much more.
Exercise can also give us more energy and help us sleep better at the same time.
When we exercise we burn through our energy stores and our body needs us to sleep to replenish these. If you exercise regularly, you could find it easier to go to sleep and sleep deeper when you do.
If you are someone who suffers from depression or anxiety then you are most likely having sleep issues because your brain is releasing adrenalin when you are trying to sleep.
You can counteract this by exercising earlier in the day. When you are exercising you will burn through your adrenaline stores. This means that when your brain goes into a "fight or flight" mode before bed, it will not have enough adrenaline to hand to affect your sleep.
Regular exercises can also help to reduce the number of panic attacks you suffer from on a day-to-day basis.
You should try to do some moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week. It is important that you also don't over exercise. There is no need to exercise every single day to see the benefits.
9. Optimize Bedroom Environment
You may find that your body isn't the only thing that is preventing you from being able to go to sleep. You may have your bedroom set up in a counterintuitive way that is making going to sleep harder than it needs to be.
How can your bedroom affect your ability to sleep?
Well, if your bedroom is too noisy then it can ruin your quality of sleep and even make it harder for you to fall asleep in the first place. Consider adding more soft furnishing to help reduce noise pollution.
If the lights in your room are too bright then they can also prevent you from sleeping in the same way that exposure to blue light does. You should consider installing dimmable lights and changing them to be more yellow-toned. Or if you can do nothing about your overhead lights then you should get a few lamps that you can use to create softer lighting in the evening.
You should consider keeping your phone on the other side of the room when you are sleeping. This will remove the temptation to use it and prevent it from disturbing you in the middle of the night.
Most sleep experts also recommend that the only things we do in our beds are sleep and have sex. If we keep it to these two activities, then every time you get into your bed, your body assumes you will be going to sleep. This will increase the likelihood of your body starting to release the chemicals that you need to get a good night's sleep.
10. Set Up The Right Bedroom Temperature
One of the features of the circadian rhythm is that your body temperature drops while you are sleeping. You can actually force your body to release melatonin earlier in the evening by changing the temperature of your bedroom and changing your own body temperature.
This is why a lot of people sleep so badly in the summer.
So, to take control of your sleeping pattern you want to keep your room temperature between 70F and 75F.
You also want to keep your body temperature stable once you are in bed (it is a slightly different story leading to getting into bed, which we will cover in section 13). Your body temperature dropping or rising too much can lead to you waking up.
You can do this by not overloading on covers and blankets. You should also try wearing socks to bed, as we lose a lot of body heat through your feet. Wearing pajamas in the cold months can also make you sleep better.
11. Don’t Eat Late In The Evening
This is another way that our lifestyle can affect our circadian rhythm. Our body expects us to settle down to sleep between 4-6 hours after our last meal.
It will release melatonin based on a mixture of this, our body temperature, and the last time we were exposed to bright light.
If you want to work with your circadian rhythm then you should consider not eating after 8 pm if you want to be asleep by 12 am. Swapping food out for filling hot drinks should help with this. Also, make sure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day.
There is some debate about whether you should be eating carbs with your dinner or not.
With there being so clear answer, we suggest that you eat a dinner that is going to make you less likely to snack throughout the evening. All our bodies work differently. For us, this is a carb-heavy meal in the evening, mixed with low-carb meals during the day.
12. Relax And Clear Your Mind In The Evening
Relaxation techniques including mediation and other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have long been used to treat trauma victims who struggle with sleep.
More recent studies have shown that adopting some of these relaxation techniques can improve all of our abilities to sleep.
Taking just 10 minutes to meditate before bed could improve your chances of falling asleep and make you fall asleep faster. Meditation calms your mind, lowers your heart rate, and can even rewrite your brain to make you a less anxious person.
When you meditate, it is important that you do it with as little screentime as possible. Looking at your phone screen can make you feel more awake.
Journaling, reading a book, and other analog tasks can also improve your chances of sleep. Note, if you are someone who likes to read and struggles to put a good book down you might want to avoid this one, so you don't end up staying up all night reading it.
13. Take A Relaxing Bath Or Shower
Early, we talked about the importance of your room temperature and keeping your body temperature stable once you are in bed. Now, we want to talk about how you can change your body temperature before bed to make yourself sleepier.
Our body temperature naturally lowers the closer we get to nighttime, as the world around us is cooling down. So, if you want to work with your circadian rhythm you force your body to lower before you want to sleep.
You can do this by raising it first, then allowing it to drop naturally. A really easy way to do this is to take a warm bath or shower around two hours before you want to be asleep.
The hot water will raise your temperature, as it lowers, once you get out of the bath, your body will think it is nighttime and the air is cooling, it should then start to release melatonin to make you sleepy.
14. Rule Out A Sleep Disorder
We want to acknowledge that lifestyle choices aren't the only things that prevent us from being able to sleep well.
There are many health problems that can cause sleep issues. Problems sleeping can also be a side effect of an underlying health condition that you are unaware of or a side effect on some medication that you are on.
We recommend that you talk to your doctor about your sleep problems if you already do a lot of the things on this list. Or you are worried that there is another reason why you are having problems getting to sleep.
You may find that you have a more serious issue than other problems on this list that needs to be addressed. This is something that your doctor can help you do.
However, even if you do have a sleep problem you may find that some of these tips work in tandem with the treatment your doctor recommends or that they might suggest trying out some of these activities on top of any medication they recommend.
Issues like sleep apnea are very common in men (24% of adult men suffer). It is also common for people who do a lot of shift work - like nurses and engineers to suffer from sleep disorders.
15. Get A Comfortable Bed & Pillow
Our final tip is to make sure that your bed is set up in a way that is comfortable for you.
If you have an old mattress that is lumpy, loud, and uncomfortable then you might want to consider replacing it with one that makes sleeping easier for you.
You should make sure to keep your room warm and/or dry. This will prevent your sheets from getting damp. You should also make sure that you clean your sheets regularly - at least every 2 weeks.
Find out whether you sleep better with the firm or soft pillows and then make sure that you have the right kind on your bed.
Make your bedroom and bed a pleasant place to be - this will make you more comfortable when you are in there and it will make it less likely that you will get anxious. Buy yourself nice blankets, bed covers, candles, and anything else that will make you happy with the space.
There are a nearly infinite number of negative things that happen to our bodies when we don't sleep. We can lose our sex drive, our motivation for work, and we can even struggle to balance properly. You will start performing worse in the gym and at work.
Sleeping for between 7-9 hours a day can drastically improve your life. It can make you a happier person, a more energetic person, a more productive person, and someone who is more content with their life.
Trying to sleep more can seem like a difficult task full of restrictions and dull activities. However, it is the complete opposite - learning how to sleep well can bring much more freedom into your life.
You can find 15 tips that will help you to sleep better in the section above. We hope that you sleep well tonight.
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