Sleep, glorious sleep: The restorative process that allows our body and mind to rest from our busy days. But in today’s extra busy world, there are plenty of distractions and behaviors that may interfere with a good night’s rest. We all seem to complain we aren’t getting enough sleep and need more.
This ever-changing modern life we live is likely the culprit. More time with smartphones and streaming television hurt the quality and quantity of our slumber. Most adults need seven to nine hours of shuteye for optimum health, and school-aged kids (6-13) need about 9 to 11 hours (toddlers and preschoolers need even more), but the average American is not getting what they need.
When we don’t get enough sleep, it can affect our ability for our body to function properly and feel our best – from memory and mental health to essential brain and behavioral development in babies and children. Studies show insufficient sleep is linked to an increased risk of obesity in both children and adults.
“Having adequate sleep also helps prevent headaches, keeps blood pressure and blood sugar healthy, and helps regulate the hormones that affect our appetite,” says Olav Jaren, MD, PhD, a neurologist from the Overlake Neuroscience Institute.
Headaches, in particular, may be one hazard of sleep deprivation – and is not always an obvious cause.
“Those with sleep apnea often complain of headaches, and migraine and tension types of headaches are more common in people with chronic difficulty sleeping or inadequate sleep,” adds Dr. Jaren.
Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene
So what can we do to get better rest? With approximately one-third of our lifetimes spent sleeping, it’s worth evaluating both our physical environment and our routines around sleep.
“Sleep hygiene is how we prepare for and undergo sleep,” says Dr. Jaren. “It’s where we sleep, and what we do before and after sleep. There are good and bad ways of doing it.”
Consider breaking bad sleep habits and forming healthier ones for better sleep hygiene:
- Don’t sacrifice sleep during the week then sleep in on the weekend; stick to a regular daily sleep/wake schedule.
- Stop using blue light devices ― computer, tablet, smartphone and television ― two hours before bedtime to ensure your body produces melatonin. It’s a good idea to keep your phone in another room, in a drawer or off completely while you sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol products four to six hours before bedtime.
- Exercise is beneficial for getting better sleep, but avoid strenuous workouts within two hours of bedtime.
- Keep your room dark, quiet and at the appropriate temperature. According to sleep experts, somewhere between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleeping.
- Incorporate calming activities into your bedtime routine, such as taking a bath or reading a book.
- Decrease your chance of nighttime waking by reducing fluid intake and using the bathroom right before bed.
If poor sleep is a recurring issue for you, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider for an evaluation.