While experts at the National Sleep Foundation recommend adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, few do. Somewhere between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep and wakefulness disorders and do not experience enough undisturbed sleep. Approximately 91% of all Americans say they wake up during the night either every night or most nights. This is a real problem. People who get less than seven hours of sleep at night are much more likely to fall asleep unintentionally at least once a month. Chronic insomnia can also lead to a host of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and certain kinds of cancer.
Tips for Improving the Quality of Your Sleep:
- Employ good sleep hygiene. This means you should go to sleep at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning and have a set sleep schedule. This also means that you should limit naps and sleeping in on the weekends. This is because you need to get your body into the habit of sleeping at certain times (at night, unless that is when you work). To promote this further, do not read or watch TV in bed. If you want real undisturbed sleep, this will make a big difference.
- Do not lay in bed for hours tossing and turning. If you go to bed and do not fall asleep, get up and read a book. That does not mean get up and read a tablet or check your email. Even watching TV. Anything with a screen will expose you to light that is similar to daylight. When your eyes pick up daylight, your brain puts out chemicals telling your body to stay awake. Reading an actual book or magazine rather than an electronic copy is much better for your chances of getting undisturbed sleep.
- Relax before bed. One really bad thing about insomnia is that it creates some stress about going to bed. People worry they will not fall asleep and then that can become a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Meditate or listen to relaxing music before you go to bed and that can ease your mind into a better place to get to sleep (and stay asleep).
- Set a time to worry. If you are like many people, your mind wants to go through all of the things that upset you right before you nod off. This could be because this is the most quiet part of your day. If this is an issue preventing you from getting the undisturbed sleep you crave, schedule time to worry. Then when your worries pop up, you can remind yourself that your appointment to worry is on Thursday at 4:00, for example. Try it, it really works.
- Make your bed as comfortable as possible. You will spend a lot of your life in your bed so bed comfort is important. Maybe you need an adjustable bed to keep aches and pains or heartburn away. Make the room comfortable as well. Most people sleep better in a cooler room. Some people do well with a white noise machine. Find what works for you.
- Exercise more. Is there anything that adding exercise to your routine will not help? Other than certain injuries the answer is probably no. Get more exercise during the day but not right before you try to go to sleep. Doing a hyper cardio routine is not the best way to get ready for bed.
- Be careful about eating right before bed. One rule of thumb is to avoid being either hungry or really full when you go to bed. This may be counterintuitive but alcohol also will disrupt your sleep. It might make you feel sleepy at first but prevents you from getting the really deep sleep that you need. Avoid it before going to bed if you want quality undisturbed sleep.
Most Americans do not get the amount of undisturbed sleep that they need. You cannot miss sleep for a few days and expect to catch up on it over a weekend. You can get into a position where you have a “sleep deficit” that cannot be corrected quickly. If you are not able to sleep for a serious amount of time, talk to your doctor.