Everyone is living very busy lives which is creating poor sleep habits. Despite knowing that sleep is important for optimal health, many will reduce their shut-eye to make time to do other things. Sleep deprived individuals beware: even modest reductions in sleep can have detrimental effects. We all have experienced the relationship between sleep and our ability to function throughout the day. After all, everyone has felt the fatigue, bad mood, or lack of focus that follows a night of poor sleep. What many people don’t realize is that a lack of sleep, especially on a regular basis, is associated with long term health consequences, including chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease. These conditions can lead to a shortened life expectancy.
So how much sleep do you need? Everyone will be different. Understand that studies show that sleeping more than nine hours can also be hazardous. Here is a quick rule of thumb: if you have the opportunity to sleep more but you don’t and are still functioning well that is fine. But if you are often sleepy during the day or if you sleep late on the weekends to try to catch up, you are likely running a sleep deficit and are at risk.
To get a consistent night’s sleep you must first start with preparing your bedroom. Use it for nothing but sleep and sex. Remove all work materials, computers and televisions. Lower the thermostat. A mild drop in body temperature helps induce sleep. For best sleep conditions, the ideal temperature is 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Darken the room. Light is a “wake up” cue. Install blackout shades or heavy drapes, and eliminate gaps with drape clips. Use low wattage lights. Also, turn or hide illuminated clocks to remove their lights. Minimize the noise. Try a white noise machine or use stand-alone or ceiling fans that provide sleep-friendly low-level humming. Alternatively you may consider earplugs made of soft foam or moldable silicone. Evaluate your mattress. If you regularly waken feeling stiff or if you sleep better away from home, consider a new mattress. Finally, ditch the cell phone! Radiation emitted from cell phones can lengthen the time it takes to reach deep sleep cycles and shorten the time spent in those cycles. If you are using your cell phone as an alarm clock, stop. Replace it with a battery powered clock. Either turn off your phone or plug it in somewhere other than your bedroom to charge overnight. You’ll get the added benefit of not being distracted by the buzz of an incoming text or email.
Now that your bedroom is prepared for sleep you must prepare yourself. Relax before bedtime. Develop pre-sleep rituals such as reading, light stretching, hot baths, anything relaxing. Go to bed at the same time, even on weekends. This regulates your “internal clock”. Limit your late night stress and anxiety. Complete stressful chores at least 2 hours before bedtime. If a racing mind is causing nighttime wakefulness, keep a pad and pen handy; the simple act of writing down thoughts can be relieving.