There’s nothing better than a good night of sleep. In fact, it’s one of the best things we can do for our mental and physical health. A deep, continuous sleep has amazing restorative benefits that help us perform at optimal levels throughout the day.
But, we all know what it’s like when we don’t get enough sleep: we can get cranky, unfocused and so tired that we are unable to get things done. And that’s no fun!
The reality is that a lack of sleep can have severe health consequences besides just feeling groggy and tired. Studies have suggested that chronic lack of sleep can contribute to serious health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.
Clearly, sleep is essential for living well. Yet many people struggle with getting enough sleep or getting enough quality sleep. Over a third of Americans report sleeping less than the recommended number of hours per night. For adults, that means getting between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
The amount of time you sleep is not the only factor that impacts how you will feel and perform the next day. Quality is just as important. Tossing and turning all night won’t give you the restorative sleep that your body needs. Why is good sleep so difficult to attain?
Why Do We Need Sleep?
You might think that your body and brain go into shut-down mode when you sleep. The truth is that your body is very busy during this time. While researchers and doctors continue to study precisely what goes on during sleep, there are some things we do know.
When we sleep, our brains process and store all of the information we have collected throughout the day. Through a process called consolidation, data moves from our short-term memory to our long-term memory. During rest, our bodies work to repair tissue and grow muscle. Sleep has also been shown to help strengthen our immune systems.
Tips for Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep
Do you lie in bed staring at the ceiling for hours? Are you tossing and turning all night long? Do you wake up feeling like you haven’t slept a wink? Do you feel completely exhausted when the alarm goes off?
If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, it’s time to take a look at what you do during the day and right before bedtime. Sometimes, we forget that we have to prepare our body for sleep by releasing some of the energy and anxiety that tends to keep us awake.
Here are six tips for seamlessly transitioning your body from wake-mode to sleep-mode so you can fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Keep a sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Keeping a sleep schedule helps to regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm and can help you fall asleep more quickly. Do this even on the weekends!
- Create a nighttime ritual. A regular sleep ritual will signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. With repetition, it can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. Your ritual can include anything that calms your body and mind, like a warm bath, aromatherapy, herbal tea or stretching.
- Try free writing. One of the most common reasons people can’t fall asleep is anxiety. If your mind is racing from all the things you have to do or a stressful situation at work, try free writing before bed. Free writing can help you get all of the stress out of your head and on to the paper. While it won’t solve all your problems, it can ease the anxiety that prevents you from sleeping.
- Build a comfy sleep zone. Your bed and bedroom should be a sleep sanctuary. Take care when choosing your mattress, pillows and bedding. While natural light is great in the morning, a dark and cool room is ideal for a good night’s sleep.
- Avoid screens. We know it’s tempting to watch TV or scroll through Instagram before bed. However, the blue light emitted from your devices can actually keep you alert and change your body’s natural sleep rhythms. Try to avoid looking at screens at least one hour before bed.
- Get a change of scenery. If you find that you can’t sleep, get up and move to a different room. Do something calming and relaxing, like reading a book, meditating or stretching. Avoid using your phone or watching television. When you start to feel tired, go back to your bed. Doing this will help your body associate your bed with sleep, and not with restlessness and anxiety.
For all those restless sleepers out there, we hope you can use some of these tips to help you sleep more soundly. If you’ve tried everything and still can’t seem to get enough good sleep, see your doctor to find out if you have a sleep disorder or hormonal issue that could be the culprit.