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Why You Need More Sleep-And How to Get It

02-19-2016

Why You Need More Sleep—And How to Get It

When you think about sleep deprivation, what comes to mind? Pulling all-nighters in college? Parents with a new baby? It might surprise you to learn that a third of Americans are getting insufficient sleep every night. On the other hand, if you’ve ever battled insomnia, suffered sleep apnea or simply felt too busy/stressed to go to bed on time, it may not surprise you at all. Modern lifestyles—non-stop schedules, digital distractions—can make it very difficult to get adequate rest.

You may function on insufficient sleep for a while, but late nights will eventually catch up to you. Think of it this way: sleep is the foundation of good health. If your foundation is crumbling or shaky, everything else is at risk. According to the CDC, people experiencing chronic sleep insufficiency are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality and reduced productivity.

Sleep also affects your daily life: how clearly you think, how well you remember and how equipped you are to fight off sickness. Sleep is designed to restore and repair your body; many critical functions depend on sleep to perform, including immunity, cognition, weight control, hormone balance and memory. If sleep has been last on your priority list, it’s time to move it to the top. Your health depends on it! The following tips may help you sleep more and better, but if you are struggling to get adequate rest, talk to your doctor.

Reduce your commitments.
On the whole, Americans are over-scheduled, over-committed and, consequently, over-tired. Evaluate your family’s weekly routine: what is absolutely essential? Does your child really need to play two sports at the same time? Do you really have to volunteer for another committee? Reduce your stresses and responsibilities so you’ll have more time at home to relax, go to bed on time and get enough sleep (adults need 7–8 hours every night!).

Create an environment that invites sleep.

It will be easier to fall asleep and sleep deeply if you feel comfortable in your environment. A few simple changes can make a big difference in the quality of your sleep! Start with a quick clutter pick-up—piles of clothes and papers can add to your stress. Use soft, low lighting as night approaches. Lower the thermostat slightly—many people sleep better in a cool room. Burn a lavender candle or diffuse calming lavender oils to help you relax.

Establish a consistent bedtime routine.

Thanks to smartphones, it’s harder than ever to ‘unplug’ before bedtime. But, your body (and your mind!) need the break. For the best sleep, establish a simple, calming, electronic-free routine you can follow every night. Building a consistent “bedtime” pattern signals to your brain that it’s time for sleep. Everyone’s routine is different, but a good routine should include adequate time to wind down, familiar sensory cues and analog activities. Turn the TV off and set your phone aside. Try starting with a cup of chamomile tea or a warm, relaxing bath. You might want to read a book (no work!) for a bit before turning out the lights. Whatever you choose, be sure to do it consistently.