In a few weeks we will be turning the clocks forward and “losing” an hour of sleep. Of course, this is just for one night. However, an increasing number of people do not get enough sleep on a regular basis which leads to negative effects far more dangerous than feeling a bit groggy. Sleep experts suggests that the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is not a luxury! Sleep is essential for proper functioning of our body and mind. Sleep improves memory, focus and mood. It also helps increase our immune function and even helps us lose weight. Driving when tired is not much safer than driving while intoxicated and leads to accidents. So, why are so many people not sleeping enough?There are several reasons that sleep has become more difficult for so many. These can be called “sleep robbers” because they rob you of a good night sleep. Here is a list of the most common reasons:
- Too much light in the room
- Room is too warm, or bedding is uncomfortable
- Too much caffeine or alcohol
- Eating or exercising too close to bedtime
- Interruptions from technology
- Not following physical cues for sleep
- Feeling like you have too much to do
- Children or pets or a partner’s snoring waking you up
- Sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome
- Physical pain, illness or allergies
There are other “robbers” but these are the most common. Most of us will have trouble sleeping from time to time but if it is common, it is critical to identify robbers and find solutions that will work for you.
Here are Ten Tips for Getting Better Sleep
- Make sure room is comfortable. Clear your bedroom of clutter, set temperature on a cool (not cold) setting. If bed or bedding is uncomfortable, get a new one or add a topper to make more comfortable. Make sure room is dark – light is a true sleep disturber.
- Limit caffeine or alcohol. Too much caffeine will either keep you up or wake you up. Alcohol might relax you initially but will cause blood sugar to drop in the middle of the night and wake you up.
- Exercise is great but is stimulating if done too close to bedtime. Gentle slow yoga or Tai Chi might be ok if they relax you. Eating too close to sleep is also not good for sleep because it’s hard for the body to digest and it might cause stomach problems. Also, watch fluid intake at night if you are waking up often to use the bathroom.
- Sleeping with a cell phone, laptop or computer on your bed or bedside is challenging because of the light, sound and interruption. Also limit exposure for at least an hour before bed if possible to reduce stimulation to the brain.
- Set a bedtime and stick to it. Just as we set an alarm to get up, set an alarm to remind you to go to bed. Also, pay attention to physical cues if you are tired before bedtime. A “second wind” occurs when we ignore initial physical sleep cues and then it can be harder to fall asleep.
- Every now and then everyone needs to stay up late to finish something. if it is a nightly event, evaluate how much you have on your plate and see if you can either let something go, delegate it to someone else or maybe plan better. Living on adrenaline is bad for our health!
- Sleep apnea, snoring or physical pain are all treatable by a physician. For mild snoring, maybe Breathe Right nasal strips or changing sleep positions are an option but for more serious chronic sleeping, see an expert.
- Stress is a major sleep “robber.” Lying awake worrying about things can take a toll on your mental and physical health and problems always seem bigger in the middle of the night. Try writing down any worries before you go to sleep and tell yourself you will deal with them in the morning. Also, calm breathing can help relax your mind and body and help you get back to sleep.
- Loud sounds can be another interrupter of sleep. There are apps now that produce “white noise” or you can run a fan in your room to drown out sounds.
- While it’s hard to remove distractions from children, sometimes teaching good sleep habits can help them stay in their bed and get a good night sleep as well. Make sure they have comfortable, dark rooms or maybe one with small nightlight and teach habits to self-soothe and go back to sleep.