Adil Saeed, MD is a graduate of Russia, St Peters-burg Pavlov State Medical University, Recently became a Doctor, And Young writer to be.
The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Most of us get 6 hours or less. Yes, some of you need fewer hours to function at optimal level, and I wish I were in this group! Generally speaking, though, most of us lack for adequate sleep.
Caffeinated beverages and supplements offer temporary, quick fixes. However, they're just that temporary fixes. They can't give us what quality sleep can. The fact is, we need sleep. It's essential to our well-being.
Potential Consequences From Lack of Sleep Are:
- Weakened immune system
- Heart problems
- Weight gain
- Poor concentration
- Slower reaction time
- Accelerated aging
- And a host of other "fun" side effects.
Tips to Sleep Better
I know what you're thinking: "HA! I wish I could get more sleep!" And I'm right there with you! Getting adequate sleep is not always as easy as it sounds. But before resigning ourselves to a life of dark circles under our eyes, perpetual yawning, and daily Starbucks runs.
How can we get the sleep we need? Here are some tips:
Keep to A Schedule
This definitely holds true for me! I have learned that my body prefers being on a tight schedule. Going to bed at 1:00 AM one night and 9:30 PM the next is not appreciated, and my body tells me so the next morning! Keeping to a regular schedule maintains the rhythm of our internal body clocks. Creating a set bedtime routine can enhance this relaxation effect. So unwind every night by reading, listening to music, spending time with a pet, writing in a journal, playing Sudoku, or doing anything else that relaxes you.
Limit Caffeine And Alcohol Later in The Day
I know some of you don't want to hear this! But consuming either of these can affect your quality of sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it can take 6 or more hours (depending on age, health, if you're pregnancy or taking oral contraceptives) for it to metabolized and out of your system.
Alcohol is a depressant, so you would think a night cap helps promote good sleep. It may make you drowsy, but it too disrupts that deep, quality sleep your body needs to repair and recharge.
Relax Before Bed
Bedtime is not the time to plan your exciting Hawaiian vacation, discuss the economy, worry about your child's future, or argue over what your mother-in-law said about the dinner you cooked last week. Stimulation, stress, and anxiety will keep you wide awake and your mind spinning. Let your body wind down by taking a warm bath or reading a light book. Pray, listen to calming music, just be still. Try spraying the bed-sheets with a little bit of lavender. The scent has a calming affect. Room should be conductive to relaxation and sleep. This includes keeping the room as dark as possible, moderating the temperature and keeping noise levels to a minimum. It is also best to leave all electronic devices out of the room and use a regular alarm clock rather than the phone. Doing this will also ensure we don’t stay in bed checking our phones in the morning. Stress can trigger insomnia, so the more you agonize about not sleeping, the greater the risk you'll lie awake staring at the ceiling. Instead of worrying that you won't sleep, remind yourself that you can. Say, "Tonight, I will sleep well" several times during the day. It can also help to practice breathing exercises or gentle yoga poses before bed.
Get The Right Mattress And Pillow
Is your mattress lumpy? Can you feel the springs underneath you? Do you wake up at 3 AM to find yourself in a deep groove in the middle of the bed? If so, you probably need a new mattress! There is no single, perfect mattress out there. Pick the one that is most comfortable for you. And by all means, try them out before buying! Spend a good 15 minutes testing a mattress on each side of your body and on your back.
Same goes for your pillow. There are many varieties from cotton, to goose down, to foam, to pillows filled with seeds. Choose the one that works for you. And who says you're only allowed one pillow? Use pillows to support your lower back or between your knees too.
Are You Warm/Cool Enough?
The connection between sleep and body temperature, along with how hot or cold it is in your environment, is an important consideration for all chronic insomniacs. Sometimes it’s obviously too hot or too cold (or too humid or too dry) to rest comfortably. And sometimes, the temperature keeps seesawing from one to another. And while either extreme might interfere with sleep, you might find fluctuating temperatures even more troublesome. If you do manage to fall sleep, the change in bedroom climate could easily wake you up. If you're burning up, you won't sleep well. If you're shivering, you won't sleep well either. Make sure you dress properly and have appropriate sheets/bed coverings to keep you at optimal temperature. Lower the thermostat at night, open a window, turn on a house fan, or use a space heater - all of which can adjust the temperature of your room and quite possibly save you money.
Watch What You Eat
A heavy meal followed by bed is not good for sleep, digestion, or your waistline! And the dreams you'll have will probably be wild and crazy! Try a lighter meal if bedtime is soon to follow. Having a small amount of a complex carb before going to bed will increase your serotonin level too, a chemical that will make you feel calm and mellow. You've probably heard about the sleep-inducing powers of tryptophan, maybe in the context of a Thanksgiving meal. While it's not exactly true that turkey makes you sleepy all by itself, it is true that turkey is a good source of tryptophan. But it's hardly the only source of tryptophan. You can also find it in chicken, ground beef, milk, nuts and seeds, honey, and even bananas. However, insomnia can be worse on an empty stomach.
Going to bed without eating can make it harder to fall asleep, and also leaves you prone to waking up in the middle of the night more frequently from hunger. Also, if weight is a concern for you, studies show that inadequate sleep stimulates the hunger hormone ghrelin. So if you can't sleep well on an empty stomach, you may make up for it the next day by eating too much.
Keep The Room Dark
Light wakes up the body, especially sunlight. Keep the lights off and windows covered. If you sleep during the day, it may be in your best interest to purchase thick window shades to block out the sun. The absence of light sends a critical signal to the body that it is time to rest. Light exposure at the wrong times alters the body's internal "sleep clock"—the biological mechanism that regulates sleep-wake cycles—in ways that interfere with both the quantity and quality of sleep. Light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that naturally promotes sleep. Even if you doze off, light can be detected through your eyelids and your brain won't produce melatonin if it's confused between night and day.
However, when it's time for you to get up, expose yourself to lots of sunlight, or at least lots of light. Sunlight will help your body shake the drowsiness and wake up more easily.
We all lead busy lives, but please don't underestimate the importance of sleep. If you're having trouble getting enough sleep, I hope these tips offer some helpful solutions for you. If you continually have a problem falling asleep and/or staying asleep, you may need to visit your health care provider to rule out a health condition.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Adil Saeed