Sleep deprivation has become a widespread issue in the United States in recent years. So much so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has named insufficient sleep a public health epidemic
According to the Better Sleep Council, nearly 8 in 10 Americans admit they would feel better and more prepared for the day if they had an extra hour of sleep. When you’re deprived of sleep, your brain can’t function properly, affecting your cognitive abilities and emotional state. If it continues long enough, it can lower your body’s defenses, putting you at risk of developing chronic illness.
You can take steps to improve your sleep habits. Here are some sleep tips that can help you avoid the damaging effects of sleep deprivation and general grogginess after a poor night’s sleep.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Wake up and go to bed at the same time, even on the weekends – to regulate your body’s clock and help you fall asleep (and stay asleep) each night.
- Power down. It’s tempting to keep phones or tablets by your bed, but they have a habit of buzzing or glowing throughout the night, as well as tempting you to take a peek. Put them away from the bed for the night, or better yet, in another room.
- Exercise daily. Exercise increases blood flow and improves your sleep. Just make sure to complete your workouts at least two hours before bedtime to ensure quality sleep.
- Watch the caffeine. Coffee in the morning is fine for most people, but caffeine can remain in your system longer than you might realize. Play it safe and stick to water after lunch.
- Evaluate your sleep system. Your bed and your body will naturally change over time, so if your mattress is seven years old (or older), it may be time for a new one. Pillows should generally be replaced every year.
- Limit the urge to press snooze. Hitting snooze is actually more disruptive to your sleep – that little bit of extra sleep is actually of poor quality, and you put yourself into a new sleep cycle that you aren't giving yourself enough time to finish. This can result in more grogginess throughout the day.
- Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Your bedroom should be a haven of comfort. Create a room that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool for the best sleep possible. Avoid televisions and other electronics in the bedroom.
- Eat lighter and earlier in the evening. According to the National Institutes of Health, late-night meals can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep. The same goes for alcohol. While a nightcap might help you relax before bed and initially fall asleep, drinking as little as two alcoholic drinks actually robs you of deep sleep and REM sleep, which means you wake up more frequently. Alcohol-related sleep disturbances are worse for women, say researchers at the University of Michigan.
- Keep a worry journal. Distance yourself from things that cause stress and anxiety. Writing down the things that are bothering you can give you perspective and help you relax. Just don’t keep your journal in your bedroom.
- Wind Down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device before bed, such as a laptop, can make it hard to fall asleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
If you have concerns about your sleep habits or think you might have a sleep disorder, please contact The Sleep Wellness Center at Griffin Hospital at 203-732-7571, or speak with your physician to make arrangements for you to be evaluated.