8 Tips for Getting the Rest You Need
May 21, 2015 | Home and Family
Having trouble sleeping? You’re not alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that “more than one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, while nearly 10 percent experience chronic insomnia.”
Its conclusion: “Sufficient sleep is not a luxury—it is a necessity—and should be thought of as a ‘vital sign’ of good health.”
Even if there are obvious reasons like work stress or family issues, going too long without enough sleep puts you at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of cancer, changes in metabolism, osteoporosis and more. It has also been correlated with reduced cognitive functioning, productivity, driving performance and, not surprisingly given this list, quality of life.
According to Carol Everson, PhD, professor of neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, “The association between inadequate sleep and poor cognitive performance has been well documented; increasingly, it’s also been correlated with disease outcomes. In labs like mine, we have discovered that sleep loss results in an increase in injured cells in many organs. Such injury can cause inflammation (a body’s attempt to repair the damage), and these are the types of changes that we expect could predispose an individual to disease.”
So what are we to do? Here are eight tips gleaned from research in the field:
1. Understand your natural sleep need. On average, the National Institutes of Health suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, teens need 9-10, and adults need 7-8.
2. Minimize light before bed. Light is highly stimulating to the nervous system. Reading under regular light is not as arousing as light from an electronic device.
3. Attempt to have a regular bedtime and awakening time. Habitual rhythms support sufficient quality sleep.
4. Take naps, but time them several hours before a normal bedtime. There’s a sleep need that builds during the day, so if you take a nap too late, it might be more difficult to fall asleep at your normal bedtime.
5. Catch a few extra winks on the weekends if you can. It’s possible to recover sleep—to renew or restore function, get back to balance and repair cell injury.
6. Avoid getting agitated if you wake up in the middle of the night. Use meditation techniques to calm your mind. If that doesn’t work, get up and do something else rather than tossing and turning. That just associates stress with bed and can have negative longer-term effects.
7. Avoid caffeine and nicotine too close to turning in. It might sound obvious, but sometimes that’s all it takes. Similarly, take care with eating too much or going to sleep on an empty stomach. Both can cause discomfort that interferes with sleep. And limit alcohol intake; it might help you fall asleep initially, but it will disrupt rest later.
8. Create a haven and rituals that promote relaxation. It’s commonly known that a dark and quiet environment promotes sleep; perhaps less recognized is the need for relatively cool temperatures.
The bottom line: “Our bodies are resilient. A temporary sleep deficit is not a big concern,” says Dr. Everson. “The greater risk is when a ‘natural’ eight-hour sleeper tries to get by on far less than his or her optimal sleep amount for an extended period of time, because deficits will accrue. Or if you are sleeping for a period that you think is normal for you, but you do not feel like you are functioning well throughout the day, that’s when it’s time to ask a physician whether there’s something else going on.”