Just like water, air, and food, sleep is a fundamental human need that is crucial for good health, fitness, and well-being.
However, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 1 in 3 people in the United States report not getting enough sleep every day. Alarmingly, 40 percent of US adults report falling asleep during the daytime without meaning to at least once a month. In addition, experts estimate that 50–80 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders.
Sleep deficiency is linked to many long-term health problems, including high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and kidney disease. It is also linked to an elevated risk of falls and broken bones in older adults and a higher chance of injury in children, teens, and adults.
Chronic sleep deficiency can interfere with work, learning, home life, and social functioning. It can cause you to struggle to judge other people’s reactions and emotions and feel frustrated or anxious in social situations.
Overall, getting a good night’s sleep is critical to both physical and mental health. Read on for six expert tips for establishing healthy sleeping patterns.
1. Make the Bedroom a Tech-Free Zone
Experts recommend removing all digital distractions from the bedroom, confining checking social media, watching TV, and playing video games to other parts of the house. Banishing gadgets and electronics such as tablets, TVs, computers, and phones helps create a more restful atmosphere that is more conducive to sleep.
Sleep experts have long warned about the impact of backlit ‘blue light’ displays, which have been shown to suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep. Experts recommend avoiding using devices at least two hours before bedtime.
2. Create a Soothing Environment
It may seem like a basic observation, but too much background noise or light can affect your ability to go to sleep. Where light and noise are beyond your control, eye masks or earplugs can be a sensible investment.
Temperature is also a key factor, but it can be a cause of disagreement between couples with different temperature preferences. In such situations, it may be worth investing in separate covers or other solutions that enable you both to get a restful night’s sleep.
3. Eat the Right Foods
Consuming food or beverages loaded with caffeine or sugar late in the day can make it difficult to get to sleep. In addition, eating a large meal late in the evening can also have an adverse impact on sleep.
While alcohol can make you feel tired and help you drift off, research shows that it hurts sleep quality, making people who have consumed alcohol more likely to wake during the night as the effect starts to wear off, potentially leaving them dehydrated as well.
Although experts say you should avoid eating a heavy meal right before bedtime, they also warn against going to bed hungry. Try a rice, oat, or dairy-based snack, since these foods have been shown to produce chemicals that increase the desire to sleep.
3. Create and Maintain a Sleep Schedule
Sleep experts recommend a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night and a maximum of eight. Establishing a routine helps to create consistency, reinforcing the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
If you still feel wide awake 20 minutes after going to bed, experts suggest leaving the bedroom rather than tossing and turning. Try engaging in a relaxing activity, like reading, then return to bed once you feel tired.
4. Incorporate Physical Activities into Daily Routines
Regular exercise is scientifically proven to promote better sleep. Spending time outdoors every day has also been shown to have a beneficial impact. However, it is important to avoid being active too close to bedtime, since this can have an adverse effect in terms of falling and staying asleep.
5. Take Time to Wind Down
Take time to relax before going to bed. For some people, this may involve reading or taking a warm bath. For others, writing a to-do list may be beneficial, as it can help them quit worrying about all of the things they need to get done the next day.
6. Focus on Sleep Quality
We tend to focus solely on sleep duration, but sleep quality is equally important.
Humans go through the five stages of the sleep cycle around five times each night. During the later stages of the cycle, information is processed and memories are consolidated, among other things. Interrupting the cycle means that you might not reach the later stages, which are incredibly important to cognitive health.