After a long day, most people are longing for the bliss of a good night’s sleep to recharge for the next day’s endeavors. With the world becoming progressively more fast-paced and the habits of its inhabitants constantly evolving, getting enough sleep is more important than ever, and increasingly more people are struggling with their sleeping patterns.
As the years go by, the number of Americans that struggle with sleep is continuously rising as workforces become more competitive and more technologically-driven entertainment is introduced, but there are a plethora of factors that contribute to a lack of sleep or poor sleep. For optimal brain function, day-to-day performance, and an overall boosted mood, it is vital that adults get between 7 and 8 hours of quality sleep in each 24 hour period. The shocking and concerning reality is that 1 in every 3 adults does not get enough sleep and insomnia affects 30% of Americans.
Sleep affects elements of mental, emotional and physical health, including immune system strength, memory, alertness, and mood. Inadequate sleep can lead to health problems, disorientation, fatigue, mood disorders, and overall frustration. A lack of sleep can cause behavioral changes that can put a strain on personal relationships, but it can also be dangerous. Sleepiness can lead to decreased motor function, heightening the risk for accidents. Even those who do get the recommended amount of sleep may not feel refreshed and ready for the day when they wake due to poor sleep quality. Laying in bed for over twenty minutes without falling asleep, waking up periodically during the night, and restlessness (tossing and turning) are all signs of irregular and poor sleep. Getting just one hour less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep can take your body four days to readjust and for sleeping patterns to return to normal. In the United States, 68% of adults have reported having trouble sleeping at least once a week, so what is causing irregular sleep patterns and the lack of quality sleep to become so common?
Your daily habits directly correlate to your sleeping patterns. Unhealthy habits, such as using tobacco and drinking alcohol regularly, can contribute to many sleep problems. A lack of exercise, poor diet and late-night eating can also make it difficult for someone to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even drinking caffeine in the afternoon, or having significant stress in your day can lead to sleeping issues. Those with psychological disorders and pre-existing health conditions are more likely to struggle with sleep due to the brain and body being over-active while trying to rest.
Sometimes, sleeping problems can arise from physical sensations and discomfort. It is recommended that you sleep in a cool, dark and quiet room. A cooler temperature, non-distracting colors and decor, and removing light from the space makes for a soothing sleeping environment. The pillows and mattress you use can also contribute to discomfort and a lack of sleep. The use of electronics, exercising or doing anything non-relaxing before bed can overstimulate the brain, leading to trouble falling asleep. Whatever the reason may be for poor sleeping habits, it is important to tackle it so the lack of sleep does not negatively impact your life.
The first step in improving your sleeping patterns is prioritizing sleep by creating a consistent sleep schedule where you wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day. Exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, and steering clear of late night snacks also lead to healthier sleep habits. Other ways to improve your sleep patterns are to only use your bed for sleeping so your brain does not confuse it as a place for activities, and to not get into bed before you feel tired. Keeping your work areas separate from your bedroom will train the mind to see the bedroom as a place of tranquility. Periodically dimming the lights in the hours before bedtime, staying away from electronics for at least an hour before bed and establishing a relaxing nighttime routine have been proven to improve the quality of sleep. Taking a warm bath or shower before bed is also a great way to calm the body down and prepare for sleep.
For some, sleeping issues are not as easily resolved and sleep aids may be needed. If you have had trouble sleeping for over a month and the lack of sleep is interfering with your day-to-day schedule, it is time to speak with a medical professional. If sleep patterns have gotten to an unbearably imbalanced point, you could be facing a specific sleep disorder such as restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, or sleep apnea. Speaking with your doctor can help you identify the cause of your lack of sleep and provide further care such as sleep medication or forms of therapy.
Sleep is fuel for the mind and is essential for functioning through your daily activities. If you are struggling with a lack of sleep or irregular sleep patterns, you are not alone and you do have options. Life can get busy and it can feel impossible to handle all of your tasks and get enough sleep, but by creating a sleeping schedule and system that works for you, you will feel more refreshed and focused. Getting healthier, more regular sleep will improve your relationships, health, and overall life. Prioritize sleep today. Feel and perform optimally tomorrow. Repeat.