Much research has been done on defining adequate sleep and its importance. Although most adults need 7-8 hours, almost a third of all American adults report getting less than 6 hours of sleep nightly, according to a 2014 Center for Disease Control report.
Insufficient sleep has been blamed for many difficulties- from having trouble concentrating at work, to being the cause of motor vehicle crashes and industrial and medical accidents. It has also been shown to be a risk factor for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, depression, hypertension, obesity and cancer.
Besides that, we all just want to sleep well. Most of us would like nothing better than to lay our heads down to go to sleep and wake up 8 hours later. Sleep is refreshing and rejuvenating.
So, the question is, how to go about getting a good night’s sleep? The following lists 10 behaviors which have been pretty solidly linked to quality sleep. How many of the following can you answer “YES” to? If you cannot answer YES, then how can you make some changes to see if it will help you sleep better? A good night’s sleep is worth the effort!
- I do not drink caffeine beverages 4-6 hours before bedtime. (Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. Coffee, tea, pop and even some OTC pain meds contain caffeine.)
- I limit alcohol consumption to 1 or 2 drinks daily and do not drink within 3 hours of bedtime. (Alcohol may help you get to sleep but after a few hours it acts like a stimulant, decreasing the quality of sleep.)
- My bedroom is cool, dark and quiet at night. (Think about things that interfere with this: the thermostat set above 67°F, pets on the bed, glowing screens like a TV or computer, even bright digital clocks may cause you to sleep less well.)
- I have a regular sleep/wake schedule, and try to stick close to it on the weekends. (This routine “sets” the body’s clock and improves sleep.)
- I do not nap during the day. (If you need to nap, limit it to 30 minutes and before 5 pm.)
- I exercise regularly. (Exercise promotes restful sleep. A morning exercise routine helps activate the brain to be more awake. If you exercise in the evening, keep it less vigorous and not near bedtime.)
- I do not eat heavy meals in the evening and I give my food 2-3 hours to digest before bedtime.
- My mattress is less than 10 years old.
- I spend the last hour before bedtime doing a calming activity like reading or listening to music, in dim light. The electronic light of computers and televisions is activating to the brain and may keep you from getting to sleep.