It’s no surprise we are a sleep-deprived society. Sleep deprivation has reached such a state of significance that it’s created a multi-billion dollar industry. Last year alone, sixty million prescriptions for sleeping pills were doled out (and Amazon saw a boost in midnight shoe sales).
Ask someone how they’re feeling these days, and the answer will most likely be “exhausted.”
Most of us experience the common side effects of not enough shut eye: foggy brain, impaired memory, irritability and butterfingers. But what’s more worrisome are the subtle dangers that build over time with continued loss of sleep. High blood pressure, weight gain, lowered immunity, diabetes and heart disease risk, loss of sex drive, suicidal thoughts, and decreased balance threaten not only our health but our work and personal relationships.
How then to get enough sleep when counting sheep just doesn’t cut it? Read on for a few tips to guarantee those extra zzz’s:
Make Space: Your bedroom is for sleeping and sex. It’s not a workspace, gym, bouncy house (unless for the latter activity) or movie theater. Spend the money on a good mattress—it’s worth every penny. The one you have been using for ten years isn’t going to cut it. Equip your space with blackout curtains. Turn the thermostat down to 60-65 degrees. Get a weighted blanket if you suffer from anxiety or restless legs (it really helps!) Add an infuser and experience the relaxation that can occur from a few drops of lavender.
Rhythm of the Night: Create a relaxing ritual each night. Set a regular time to go to bed—and stick to it, even on the weekends. Avoid bright lights, especially the blue light from screens (TVs, phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) at minimum within an hour of bedtime. Read a little or listen to a soothing meditation—use the last hour before bed as a wind-down time where relaxation is the focus.
Sweat those ZZZs: Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality. Physical activity increases the time our body spends in deep sleep—that healing, dreamless state we need to be in for full repair. Exercise at any time is beneficial, but morning workouts seem to promote the deepest sleep. Aim for at minimum thirty minutes a day. Added bonus: exercise can decrease stress and anxiety, two big factors that get in the way of our beauty sleep.
Food for Thought: Nighttime is not the time for alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes or sugars. While these may feel like nice ways to wind down, they can actually disrupt sleep and lead to a restless night. Heavy meals slow down digestion and can cause indigestion. If you find yourself hungry before bed, aim for a light snack that is easily digested. Almonds, kiwis, fatty fish and tart cherry juice promote a restful night.
Talk it Out: If it’s the tumbleweeds of thoughts rolling around in your head all night that keeps you up, try journaling before you tuck yourself in. Keep a notebook on your nightstand for those middle of the night genius ideas—it’s easier for the body to drop into sleep once the weeds are cleared out. Scheduling regular therapy sessions can also be great for the soul!
If you still find sleep to be an elusive beast, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a sleep therapist. Lack of sleep is not something to sweep under the rug. Make sleep a priority, and you’ll notice the differences in all aspects of life!