With rising levels of stress and anxiety among Americans, it is not surprising that many of us are losing precious hours of sleep each night. In fact, about 83.6 million Americans typically report getting below the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night.
Since sleep deprivation is linked to several chronic health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity, and depression, this problem cannot be ignored. The CDC has even declared sleep deprivation to be a “public health problem.” To help you combat stress and find adequate sleep, we’ve outlined 8 proven strategies below.
1. Create a Routine
Research shows that when our sleep schedule is irregular, we are more likely to experience inadequate sleep. Because of this, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will help you sleep more soundly and ensure that you are getting a full 7 hours. On weekends, try to keep the difference to no more than an hour. This consistency can help regular your body’s natural sleep cycle, making it easier to fall asleep night after night.
2. Get Regular Exercise
Physical activity performed during the day can help you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly. A 2018 study found that when a moderate exercise routine was introduced, patients suffering from insomnia found improved sleep cycles and were able to fall asleep more quickly.
3. Declutter Your Sleep Space
When your sleep space is cluttered with work, papers, mail, workout equipment, and laundry, it can be difficult to relax and unwind. These items tend to trigger stress and anxiety that could keep you lying awake at night. Studies suggest that small stressors can lead to increased wakefulness and decreased REM sleep.
Consider clearing away clutter by putting objects where they belong, putting clean laundry away, removing dirty laundry from the room, and removing any association with work from the area. When you are able to let go of the stresses of everyday life, you will be able to sleep more soundly.
4. Improve Your Mattress and Bedding
If you are resting on an unsupportive mattress each night, it can be difficult to get adequate sleep. Unsupportive mattresses can cause painful pressure points, poor spinal alignment, increased allergies, insomnia, soreness in joints, and body pain. If your mattress is broken down, sagging, torn, or between 8 and 10 years old, it may be time to consider a replacement.
Be sure to shop around for a good mattress that provides support for your specific needs. Mattresses made with memory or latex foam are great for those with joint pain since they contour to your body’s natural curves to provide support. Hybrid mattresses tend to work well for heavy sleepers since their combination of foam and innerspring coils prevent sinking. You also should take the thickness of a mattress into consideration. Thicker mattresses are more popular nowadays but many people opt for a thin mattress for therapeutic reasons. Check out this buying guide from Sleep Standards for more tips when choosing a mattress.
5. Reduce Expose to Electronic Light
Darkness causes our minds to naturally produce a hormone called melatonin, which triggers a drowsy, sleepy feeling. When we are exposed to light from electronic devices, such as phones, televisions, and computers, this can interfere with our body’s natural ability to produce melatonin. Consider reducing your exposure to electronic light at least 2 hours before bed. This will help your body more adequately prepare for sleep.
6. Adjust Your Bedroom Temperature
Since body temperature tends to drop as we sleep, keeping your room at a cool temperature will help you sleep more soundly. Experts suggest keeping your bedroom between 60-67 degrees for the best sleep possible. If you tend to sleep hot, you may also want to consider bedding and pajamas made from breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen.
7. Avoid Large Meals Before Bed
Eating a large meal right before bed can cause your body to work hard at digestion. When your body is working to digest food, it is difficult for it to slow down and prepare for sleep. Experts suggest avoiding meals at least 3 hours before bedtime. This will ensure that your food has sufficient time to digest before trying to find sleep.
8. Manage Stress
It can also be helpful to incorporate relaxing activities before bed. Try reading, breathing exercises, or taking a warm bath or shower. You may also want to consider writing down any stress triggers that might be on your mind. Experts suggest that this can help you let them go long enough to find a peaceful night’s sleep. Additionally, writing down what you are thankful for can also give you a sense of peace before retiring to bed.
A good night’s sleep is crucial to your overall health and wellbeing. Making some of these small adjustments can help you find the sleep you need to be your best. If your sleep issues persist or if you think your inability to find sleep may be associated with more serious health concerns, be sure to discuss these issues with your doctor.