One of the most overlooked things in your life, if you really think about it, is probably sleep. Living on a society that moves at a breakneck pace has its disadvantages, and one of them is that most people rarely get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night.
Fact is, research shows that both mental and physical health suffers when we aren’t laying prone for at least 7.5 hours every night. Of the nearly 320 million people in this country, estimates place the number of sleep-deprived persons at greater than 100 million.
What the Experts Say About Sleep
One of the major authorities on sleep research is the aptly-named National Sleep Foundation. Their research shows that the average amount of sleep that people within the primary age range receive every night is just 6.4 hours – which is nearly an hour less than the recommended. Almost certainly, the primary reasons for this are work and play: office work is often completed at home, and the explosion of web-enabled devices and games eats into the time reserved for sleep.
On the weekends, people sleep longer – but, at 7.7 hours on average, this still falls short of the liberal average of 8 hours (although it exceeds the more conservative recommended average of 7.5 hours). One of the major reasons that children (and adults) lose sleep is due to the presence of a television set in the bedroom; this can be responsible for up to 2 hours of sleep loss per night. Therefore, if you’re a parent, you may want to remove the tv set from the bedroom of your young children.
The Costs of Not Getting Enough Sleep
Frankly; your body shuts down every day for a reason – sleep is an absolutely essential period of rejuvenation. Not getting enough sleep will have ramifications that far exceed fatigue; you will, eventually, notice an attenuation of your cognitive abilities. The longer you go without sleep or with too little sleep on consecutive days, the more pronounced the decline.
In fact, memory impairment and loss, as well as depression and even adverse changes in personality, have been tied to sleep deprivation. Quite a few car accidents are caused by sleep-deprived operators. You know the stories of the cross-country truck drive falling asleep at the wheel, and the catastrophes that have resulted. Even the average person will suffer subpar performance at work if you consistently get too-little sleep the night before.
Another little talked-about consequence of diminished sleep are physical health issues. Research has shown that ailments such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease can be linked to sleep loss; it may not cause the above – but it does contribute to them and especially exacerbate those with a genetic propensity towards developing these. More specifically, if you notice that you have trouble getting to sleep, or have trouble staying awake during the day, there’s a chance you may have a sleep disorder – there are nearly 100 of them medically documented.
How Do You Get Adequate Sleep?
There are several things you can do to put yourself in the best situation for getting to sleep on time, so that you can rest the fully 7.5 – 8 hours that are recommended per night. It begins, of course, with creating the proper environment; this includes making sure you have a good mattress on which to sleep. You’ll spend nearly 30% of you life lying down; a solid mattress is a great investment. The following are some tips to getting that elusive good night’s rest:
- Set your bedroom up to be conducive to a sleep environment. This means dark, with a minimum of the LED lights that are seemingly attendant with every device you buy these days. You may invest in earplugs and a blackout mask and/or curtains if need be.
- It’s important to go to bed with a clear mind; you may find that note lists such as Microsoft’s To-Do, Google’s Google Keep, or Evernote can help with compiling your list of things to do the next day, and then putting them out of your mind so you can get to the business of sleep. In fact, there are voice-recording apps that allow you to simply speak into your phone to record, and then put it away until morning.
- Routine, routine, routine. Few things are more important than establishing a consistent bedtime routine – take a warm shower if it helps, meditate, perhaps read a short chapter before allowing your mind to wind down. Relaxation sounds, such as ocean waves crashing, can work wonders.
- During the day, do not take naps! Sometimes, they are unavoidable, but you should try and restrict them to mid-afternoon at the latest, and not for more than 25 minutes or so. After 3 pm, you should perhaps work out to help wake you up – otherwise, a nap at this time could make sleep hard to come by in the late evening.
- As for exercise, avoid doing so within 4 hours of your bedtime. Diet matters, as well, which is why you shouldn’t smoke about 4 hours before bedtime, either. Really, you shouldn’t smoke at all – but let’s not get too preachy.
If you can put it all together, you will find that more and more restful nights for the fully recommended length of time, can go a long way during your work day and life.