A study published by the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) found that an estimated 35% of adults in the U.S. sleep for less than seven hours each night. The health consequences of such sleep deprivation are as severe as they are varied, according to a separate study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In that study, researchers found that going too long without getting enough sleep puts individuals at risk of suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and depression. The same applies to stroke and heart attack, the study also found.
The Real Price of Not Getting Enough Sleep at Night: Shining a Light on the Consequences of Poor Sleep Quality
According to most neurologists, pulmonologists, and other physicians well-versed in sleep disorders, the average adult should strive to get seven or more hours of deep, restorative sleep each night. They say doing so leaves individuals refreshed and less prone to daytime sleepiness, a condition that increases the risk of developing depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health problems.
Why Better Sleep Habits are Important
Better sleep habits make for better sleep quality; as simple as that might sound, there is a whole lot of truth in that statement. Getting plenty of restful sleep each night lowers the risk of suffering from physical, behavioral, and mental health problems associated with being moderate to severely sleep-deprived.
There is also something to be said for feeling more alert and primed for a productive workday or day at school. But it does not end there; being well-rested can also keep individuals safe on the road, notes one study from ResearchGate, an esteemed online networking platform for researchers and academicians. In that study, researchers found that excessive daytime sleepiness accounts for an estimated 10% to 30% of all traffic accidents on America’s roadways.
7 Proven Tips for Better Sleep
The beauty of sleep is that it is an effortless way to improve multiple aspects of your physical, psychological, and emotional health. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it comes easy to everyone; some struggle in this department more than others. If you’re among the 35% or so of Americans who find it difficult to get at least seven hours of deep, restorative sleep when you go to bed at night, the following might prove beneficial and help you to improve your sleep hygiene:
1. Turning Off Lights
While it might sound painstakingly obvious, turning off the lights before bed can improve sleep quality immensely. And melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, partly explains why that is the case. For those unaware, melatonin uses light to regulate our sleep-wake cycle or internal clock.
The pineal gland secretes more of this hormone when it is dark, which makes us sleepy, and less when there is a lot of artificial or natural light, which contributes to us feeling more awake and alert. Bright light emanating from laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other modern-day electronic devices can also interfere with melatonin production.
That said, turning off any bright lights in your room before climbing into bed will make it that much easier to achieve the deep, restorative sleep your body needs to function at its best.
2. Having a Sleep Schedule
Establishing and sticking to a sleep schedule can quickly put you on track to providing your body with the kind of rest it needs to function optimally. Studies show that adopting and consistently following a sleep schedule reinforces the body’s internal. In other words, the more the body gets acclimated to sleeping at a specific time, the easier it will be to fall asleep around that same time each night.
3. Limiting or Skipping Daytime Naps
It stands to reason that if you take a nap during the day, you will find falling and staying asleep at night challenging. Bearing that in mind, if at all possible, consider limiting or forgoing daytime naps and getting a good night’s sleep instead.
Too much stress can impact many aspects of our lives, and studies show it can even be the thing that keeps us up at night. One of those studies comes from the American Institute of Stress, which took a long and hard look at how this feeling of emotional or physical tension interferes with sleep.
According to researchers, when individuals become stressed, the pituitary gland, another of the many glands that make up the endocrine system, secretes above-average amounts of cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormones. The increased production of these hormones elevates an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure levels and puts them in a state of hyperarousal. This state of hyperarousal almost always leads to more wakeful nights.
But there is some good news insofar as there are ways to combat stress and, in turn, get more sleep, some of which include exercising, meditating, and listening to soothing music.
5. Creating an Ideal Sleep Environment
Simply creating a restful environment can go a long way toward improving sleep hygiene. In addition to turning off bright lights, investing in and using earplugs can help you quickly get to sleep by blocking out annoying and loud sounds that would otherwise leave you tossing and turning all through the night. Relaxation techniques can also help in this regard. An example of a good relaxation technique might include taking a warm bath or shower before finally calling it a night.
6. Limiting Caffeine
Reducing the amount of caffeine you consume before bedtime can make it easier to fall asleep. For those unaware, caffeine is a stimulant, a drug that increases activity in the central nervous system to such an extent that it promotes alertness, wakefulness, and focus.
None of these things are conducive to getting a good night’s sleep. That said, if your goal is to get more sleep at night, it would be best to avoid drinking sodas and other caffeinated beverages before bedtime.
7. Avoid Alcohol
Like caffeine, alcohol is something you would do best to avoid before bedtime if your goal is to get a good night’s sleep. While consuming alcohol does make you sleepy, doing so doesn’t allow you to sleep through the night, according to one study from the National Sleep Foundation.
According to researchers involved in the study, when individuals consume alcohol, it triggers an uptick in the production of adenosine, an organic compound in the brain that acts as a sleep-inducer. But the increase in adenosine is only temporary.
Once adenosine levels fall back into a normal range, most individuals will struggle with a pattern of falling asleep and waking back up throughout the night, a phenomenon better known as fragmented sleep. That said, it would be best to avoid drinking too close to bedtime if falling asleep and sleeping through the night are of any concern to you.
You Can Influence Your Sleep Quality
For most people, the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night is due to their doing. Taking the steps necessary to improve one’s overall sleep hygiene can open the door to deeper, more restful sleep in no time. And with better sleep comes more productive days at work or school, fewer struggles with daytime wakefulness, improved mental health, and more. Of course, these are only some of the benefits; the remainder will become evident once you allow yourself to get more sleep at night.