If you think you’re getting more done by sleeping less, you may be right. But the cost of doing such will take a toll on your long-term health.
Over the recent decades, research has shown again and again that sleep deprivation can have a devastating effect on your overall health – not to mention your figure.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommends at least 7 hours of sleep to get the maximum benefits of shut-eye.
And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting less than this amount can significantly increase the risk of many life-threatening diseases.
This includes heart problems, cancer, arthritis, kidney disease, stroke, diabetes and even depression.
And the worst part is that there are about 70 million people in the U.S. alone who are struggling with a lack of sleep.
The main problem with not getting enough rest is that it plays tricks on your brain. When you’re feeling drained from a sleepless night, your metabolism essentially goes haywire.
So, better take serious steps to fix this problem in your life before it is too late. The following tips are believed to be helpful in establishing a good sleep pattern in your life.
#1: Make a sleep schedule and stick to it
Laying down the proper groundwork is half the battle when it comes to sleeping soundly. Most people who have trouble drifting off to sleep at night usually don’t follow a general bedtime schedule.
Like with the other members of the animal kingdom, we’re designed to function based on a routine. But the problem is that we’re the only species that deprive ourselves of sleep on purpose.
This is why you shouldn’t brush off the importance of setting up a sleep schedule that gives you enough time to rest at night.
The more you make a habit of ending your day right, the better you’ll wire your body and mind to sleep right away.
#2: Get into a healthy bedtime routine
Before the grueling lifestyle of the industrial age came into the picture, our ancestors were used to following their natural circadian rhythm. Now that everything’s changed, you need to create a set of rituals that tie into your regular bedtime schedule.
Like babies and small children, you can also set up similar cues to signal that it’s time to sleep.
For instance, reading is a good habit to practice, much like how kids settle in with a bedtime story.
#3: Do a bedroom audit
Is your bedroom a place conducive for rest? Or is it a source of worry and distraction? If you answered “yes” to the latter, remove everything in your bedroom that can detract from a peaceful sleep.
A lot of people don’t realize how important this is, so paying attention to the details will get you to sleep faster.
First off, make sure your bedroom is in the 60-70 F range as this is the ideal temperature to help you relax.
Of course, your bed also plays a huge role in helping you sleep peacefully. Check your mattress, blankets and pillows so that they provide the comfort you need.
Also, the best bedroom is a dark one. Light disrupts the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone that makes you drowsy.
Keep the windows covered and lights switched off when it’s time to sleep. While you’re at it, remove anything noisy from your bedroom that might disturb you in the middle of the night.
This includes your TV, computer or mobile devices – which brings us to the next tip.
#4: Make your bed an electronics-free zone
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s for a good reason. Like I said earlier, your body stops producing melatonin when you’re exposed to bright light. This is doubly so with the blue light that screens typically emit.
One of the best things you can do is switch off all screens 2-3 hours before you hit the sack.
#5: Cut down on stimulants and other substances
Certain drinks are a no-no when it comes to sleeping well at night. This includes coffee (for obvious reasons) as well as liquor.
While caffeine keeps you awake, you might think alcohol has the opposite effect and help you relax.
Sure, knocking back a few drinks will make you drowsy, but the quality of your sleep won’t be as great.
#6: A warm bath works wonders
One of the benefits of going to bed squeaky clean is that it acts as a natural sedative.
Your body temperature goes up during a hot shower (ideally no higher than 104 F and not longer than 20 minutes), which then goes down when you go back into your bedroom. This drop triggers a change in your system which tells you that it’s time to sleep.
Do this about an hour before sleeping, and you’ll have enough time for your body to shift gears. As your breathing and heart rate goes down, it’ll be easier to fall asleep.
#7: Get out of bed
There are times when you just can’t go to sleep for one reason or another. In such cases, staying in bed and forcing yourself to fall asleep is counterproductive.
The best thing to do is get up and do something else, but NOT in the bedroom.
Listen to music, read a book or answer a crossword puzzle, then come back to bed when you feel sleepy.
The important thing is to associate your bed with relaxation, and not a place to engage in any stressful activities.
#8: Load up on melatonin
While coffee, booze and sugary treats are a no-no, there are snacks that can actually help you sleep.
Try some of these melatonin-rich foods about 45 minutes to an hour before sleeping:
– Other fruits like apples, avocado, dried prunes, grapes and goji berries
– Oatmeal-based snacks like cookies and porridge
– Warm milk (or almond milk) – also other beverages like chamomile or peppermint tea
– Nuts like almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews and pistachio
– Whole wheat toast with jam, peanut butter or almond butter
– A turkey or chicken sandwich
– Cheese (with toast, crackers or fruits)
– Green veggies like spinach, broccoli and asparagus
Remember, “light” is the operative word. Don’t fill up too much or you’ll be stressing your metabolic functions which will make it harder for you to sleep.
#9: Quiet your mind
Many of us spend sleepless nights with our minds going a hundred a miles an hour over things that concern us.
Whether it’s taxes, bills, your job, the kids, your pets, a big project you’re working on, or a visit to the in-laws, there’s always something occupying your thoughts.
The trick is to learn how to block these when you’re about to sleep.
#10: Visualize and meditate
If you’re having a hard time keeping out distracting thoughts, you can train your mind through a couple of relaxing mental exercises.
For instance, meditation teaches you to disengage from negative thinking and focus on the present moment instead.
A 2012 study at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in India documented this phenomenon and proved how effective its role is in sleeping more soundly.
You can do this by sitting upright with your eyes closed and thinking about nothing else other than your breathing. It also helps to focus on the sensations your body is feeling, such as your heartbeat and the weight of your feet on the floor.