The new year is always full of well-intentioned resolutions. Lose weight. Make more money. Spend more time with family. Get a new job… the list goes on and on. Perhaps the one that should be at the top of your list for the rest of the year is Get More Sleep. With this one resolution alone, you may just find that the others on your list come naturally.
America — The Sleep-deprived
The average American is sleep-deprived. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reports that it is at epidemic proportions, impacting not only efficiency, but health and safety, as well. With sleep insufficiency comes a higher risk for chronic illnesses, such as depression, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and even cancer. This is pretty sobering information, when you consider that most people in the U.S. get 6.8 hours of sleep, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. This number falls short of the recommended 7–9 hours. If you receive less than 7 hours of sleep a night and find yourself feeling tired, lethargic or unable to concentrate, it is very likely you are suffering from a lack of sleep.
Sleep insufficiency doesn’t just cause drowsiness and an inability to perform at the top of your game. It has been acknowledged as one of the leading causes of workplace and industrial incidents, driving accidents and occupational errors, including potentially life-threatening medical errors.
Body and Mind Collide
There are many physical factors that can contribute to a poor night’s sleep. Insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea and snoring are just a few of these contributors. All of these are treatable, but many people don’t feel they warrant medical intervention.
Other reasons people are lacking in sleep include excessive working or shift work, instant access to technology, jet lag, a new baby… again, the reasons can be incredibly varied. Regardless of why you might be missing that much-needed rest, it is necessary to take the steps required to get back to a full, restful night’s sleep — every night.
Sleep On It
There are several actions you can take to help improve your quality of sleep. Barring medical reasons, there is no reason you can’t start regaining control of your sleep cycle and start feeling better — inside and out! Try following these tips to improve your sleep and get back on track again!
Don’t consume caffeine in excess, and especially after dinnertime. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that can keep you in “go mode” even when you’re exhausted.
Go to bed when you start feeling tired. Laying there tossing and turning will only lead to missing more sleep, as you start worrying about why you’re not sleeping.
Turn off the TV and put down computers and phones at least an hour before bedtime. All of these electronic diversions can keep your mind working overtime, even when you are exhausted. Try reading or listening to soothing music to get into a different frame of mind.
If you must take a nap, be sure you do so before 5 PM. Otherwise it will be incredibly difficult to get to sleep at your regular bedtime. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a 20–30 minute nap when you feel the need. Longer than this and you may feel groggy when you awake.
Create the perfect sleeping environment. When you feel comfortable and safe in your sleep environment, you will get a much better quality sleep. A light-free environment with little or no noise goes a long way toward improving your sleep. Bedding that you find soothing, such as smooth cotton sheets and warm, downy comforters will help with that feeling of security.
Sleep regularly. A sleep schedule that is all over the place will confuse your body, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Establish a schedule and stick to it. Be sure that it will give you enough time before bed to settle in and adequate time in the mornings to fully wake and prepare for your day.
Obtain medical intervention if you think there may be physical factors impacting your sleep. Your doctor can help you figure out if you need to take steps medically, or if you just need to change your sleeping habits.
The National Sleep Foundation offers some great tools, including their Official Sleep Diary, a printable sleep-tracking program that will allow you to monitor your sleeping habits and determine where you can make improvements. With ample sleep you will find you feel better, think more clearly and experience fewer minor illnesses. You’ll even have energy to fulfill some of those other resolutions on your list this year!