Author: Michael Scaletti
Very few things can affect your overall health, productivity, and general well-being as much as sleeping well can. Unfortunately, too many of us are suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. Whether it's general insomnia or the fast pace of modern living, we're struggling to go to bed on time, struggling to fall asleep, and struggling to stay asleep once we do.
If this all sounds familiar, it may be time to rethink your approach to sleep. You may think you're doing fine on 5 or 6 hours of sleep every night, but the bottom line is that in the long run the negative effects of that chronic sleep deprivation will begin to add up. You will have less focus, attentiveness, and your ability to solve complex problems will suffer, and in the very long run it has even been shown that chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of developing serious medical conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and mood disorders.
That all sounds dire, I know, but don't worry. There are some things you can start doing now to get back on track and start making up that sleep deficit of yours.
Wind Down Without Your Phone
We're all guilty of it. We climb into bed at the end of a long day to unwind and get ready to sleep, and we start scrolling through social media feeds or reading on our phones or tablets. Winding down before falling asleep is normal and healthy. The problem is that our digital screens emit short wave blue light that has been shown to actively interfere with the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, thus making it more likely that you will struggle to fall asleep.
Your best option is to avoid these devices entirely in the hour leading up to the time you'd like to fall asleep. A great alternative is to pick up an actual physical book and spend some time reading, or play gentle music. This will allow you to decompress from the day without the harmful effects of a screen.
Cut Out the Evening Caffeine
There are a ton of reasons to love coffee. It wakes you up, it has been shown to have positive health benefits, and most of all it tastes great! That said, coffee, and caffeine in general, can stay in your body long after you drink it, and this can in turn keep you from getting to sleep.
Because of this, it's a good idea to make sure you stop drinking any caffeine at least 10 hours before you plan to go to bed. The more caffeine that is left in your bloodstream, the harder it will be to fall asleep. Enjoy your morning cup of joe, but switch to water after noon!
On that note...
Hydration is vital to so many aspects of your overall health, and it can affect your sleep as well. Trying to sleep dehydrated can cause dry mouth and sinuses, cramping, and snoring. But it's an easy fix!
According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult needs between 2.7 and 3.7 liters of liquid daily. That's not just water, you can get a lot of that from other beverages, or even fruits and veggies. But drink lots of water too!
I have an alarm set for 9 AM every morning, even on days when I'm not working. Now I'm not saying that I don't sometimes turn that off and sleep in, but for the most part, I try to go to bed and wake up every day at the same time.
A consistent sleep schedule can help you regulate your circadian rhythm, actually making it easier to fall asleep and sleep through the night eventually. Plus maintaining a regular sleep schedule has been linked to improved mood, better cognitive skills, and even a reduced risk of heart disease.
The impact of regular exercise on sleep is well documented and well studied. Researchers now believe that exercise and sleep have a bidirectional relationship; that is, exercising regularly will help you sleep better, and better sleep will help you exercise more effectively.
The benefits of this should be obvious. Increased fitness and cardiovascular health, reductions in levels of depression and anxiety, lower risk of disease and improved mental and physical function. It can also reduce daytime sleepiness and reliance on sleep aids.
Avoid Eating Before Bed
While much of the recent data is beginning to debunk the old myths about weight gain, general health, and eating before bed, it absolutely can impact your overall sleep. Studies have shown that late night eating can exacerbate sleep apnea, cause an increase in indigestion and heartburn, and delay sleep onset. Because of this I find it's best to just avoid late night meals if possible and try to leave at least two hours between your last meal and the time you intend to get into bed.
If you utilize these techniques you will be in good shape to improve your overall sleep quality, thus combatting chronic sleep deprivation and hopefully improving your overall health and productivity!