Do you often find yourself lying awake in the middle of the night or, even worse, waking up in the morning not feeling rested even though you swear you slept through the night? If you answered yes, you are not alone. In fact, it is estimated that sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes.
Sleep plays a vital role in our overall health, and it is important to take both the quality and quantity of your sleep seriously. In this article, we will take a look at the importance of great sleep and offer up five tips for getting a better night’s sleep.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
There is nothing better than getting a full night's rest, but have you ever actually stopped to think about what specifically makes sleep so critical to your daily function? In fact, it doesn't take very long at all before the impact of sleep deprivation can begin having a serious impact on your health.
Amazingly, after as few as three or four nights without sleep, it is even possible to begin experiencing serious symptoms like hallucinations. While you sleep, your body goes through different phases. During deep, non-REM sleep, the brain and body both slow down and engage in crucial recovery processes.
It’s during this deep sleep cycle that the body works to repair muscle, organs and other cells. In addition, during deep sleep, important chemicals that strengthen your immune system begin to circulate in your blood. It is these recovery processes that help to promote physical and mental health and play a major role in your health long-term.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need Each Night?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commonly called the CDC, the average American adult needs seven or more hours of sleep per night for optimal health and well-being. Unfortunately, the CDC has also found that more than one-third of American adults are not getting enough sleep.
To make matters worse, research suggests that regularly sleeping for less than seven hours a night can have negative effects on the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune and nervous systems. Someone living with a continuous sleep deficit may even begin to see these long-term effects manifest themselves through things like weight gain, foggy memory and even depression. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, it is important to visit with a healthcare professional and make sleep-related changes so you can begin getting better sleep.
5 Tips for Getting Better Sleep
- Keep light and sound to a minimum. You may not realize it, but your body is used to living in a 24-hour environment, and light plays a central role in regulating your Circadian Rhythm. It is this Circadian Rhythm that informs your body's internal clock and provides signals for when you need to sleep. While blocking external or natural light sources from your bedroom may seem easy, many artificial sources like the television or cell phone can prove more difficult. It is recommended that you make your bedroom a screen-free zone. While some people may prefer to keep a TV in their bedroom, having any screen time before bed is generally discouraged due to the negative effect it can have on the quality of your sleep.
- Create a comfortable atmosphere: Being comfortable throughout the night is essential for getting a complete night's rest. In addition to eliminating light sources, keeping the room at a cool temperature plays an important role in sleep onset. In fact, most people experience a drop of roughly two degrees Fahrenheit while they sleep. If you find yourself waking up hot at night, consider purchasing a fan, adjusting your home's thermostat or reducing the amount of bedding you sleep with.
- Create a regular sleep routine: Creating and maintaining a nighttime routine is essential for both falling asleep and maintaining deep sleep throughout the night. It may surprise you to know that your nighttime routine should actually start well before you actually head to bed. A nighttime routine that prepares you for tomorrow is a great first step. Setting aside a few minutes at bedtime to prioritize your morning may go a long way to reducing stress at night. It is also important to minimize screen-based activities before bed, filling your evening hours with low-key activities to help avoid becoming overstimulated. If you find yourself looking for calming activities, you may want to try journaling. Journaling can help to consolidate thoughts and relieve stress prior to falling asleep.
- Try to keep stress at a minimum: One way to set yourself up for great sleep and reduce overall stress is by maintaining a regular exercise schedule. By engaging in 30 minutes of daily exercise, it is likely you can improve the overall quality of your sleep, although you should be careful to avoid strenuous activity immediately proceeding bedtime.
- Don’t just lie in bed awake: We all wake up in the middle of the night, but on occasion, you may find it more difficult to fall back to sleep. It might not sound like the obvious thing to do, but if you can't get back to sleep within 20 minutes, it is recommended that you go to another room or try to take your mind off sleeping by reading a good book for a few minutes. This is especially important if you find yourself stressing about tomorrow's activities. While taking your mind off whatever is keeping you awake is important, turning on the TV or using other devices with screens is not recommended.
Maintaining healthy sleep behaviors and getting enough high-quality deep sleep consistently can go a long way to improving your overall health. If you feel like you are not getting enough sleep or are not satisfied with the quality of sleep you are getting, schedule a visit to CareNow® and speak with one of our medical professionals.
Each CareNow® urgent care location is fully staffed with qualified physicians who can help you. Our clinics are also open after hours and on the weekend, so we’re available to serve you when it’s most convenient for you.
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Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.