Guest post: SleepHelp.org
A few sleepless nights may not seem like a big deal, but if getting less than seven hours of sleep becomes your norm, you could be sleep deprived. The average adult needs a full seven to eight hours of sleep for the brain and body to function at its best. If you’re regularly getting less, you’re in some state of sleep deprivation.
What Happens When You’re Sleep Deprived?
More than just your energy levels go down when you haven’t gotten enough sleep. Neurons in the brain slow down their signals. As your mind slows so do your reaction times, critical-thinking skills, and reasoning abilities. It gets tough to recall information as well. The brain also has trouble making connections between old and new memories, which can make it harder to learn from new experiences.
Your immune system also takes a hit without enough sleep. Not only will you find yourself getting sick more often if you’re sleep deprived, but you’ll also stay sick longer. The body doesn’t have the time it needs to remain at full power to fight off infection.
Lack of sleep can also show up on your waistline. Your body releases more hunger hormones and fewer satiety hormones when you haven’t gotten enough rest. The result—overeating and unwanted weight gain.
The list can go on and on; sleep deprivation can even decrease your emotional control and increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. And remember, the less sleep you get, the more severe the symptoms of sleep deprivation become.
How to Get Better (and More) Sleep
Many of your daily habits affect the quality and quantity of your sleep. Improving your sleep habits can help you get the deep, restful sleep you need. We’ve put together a few tips to help you get started.
- Consistent Bed and Wake Times
The human body loves routine. In fact, your sleep-wake cycle is largely controlled by regular 24-hour periods called circadian rhythms. Keeping a consistent bed and wake time strengthens your natural rhythms and regulates the release of sleep hormones, making you more tired at bedtime and, hopefully, ready to get out of bed in the morning.
2. Create the Right Environment
For the best sleep, you need to be able to relax and give your body the opportunity to get a full night’s rest. That means a dark, quiet bedroom kept comfortably cool, which is between 60-68 degrees for most people. If your mattress feels hot, you may want to switch from a foam one to an innerspring mattress that is better at dissipating heat. Your bed should also support your preferred sleep position and be free of lumps or valleys that may cause aches and pains.
3. Regular Exercise
Physical activity makes you feel more tired at night. However, strenuous exercise should be avoided for at least four hours before bedtime as the rise in body temperature and release of endorphins could keep you awake.
4. Eat Healthy and Smart
Heavy, high-fat foods eaten close to bedtime can keep you tossing and turning for hours. Opt for a light dinner eaten well before bedtime. Avoid alcohol before bed as well. It can make you feel sleepy at first but could later disrupt your sleep cycle. And, of course, limit your caffeine intake. Start limiting your caffeine intake in the early afternoon and entirely avoid it for the four hours before bed.
5. Stress Control
Stress and sleep loss create a vicious cycle. Stress can keep you awake, which means you sleep less. Less sleep makes it more difficult to control emotions, which leads to more stress. Both mindfulness meditation and yoga have been shown to reduce inflammation, improve moods, and reduce stress. Try using a meditation or yoga routine to relieve stress at the end of the day or while lying in bed to help you drift off to sleep.