When we get enough sleep, the benefits ripple outward, improving other areas of our health.
Most adults need 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, and children may need as many as 13 hours per night. But studies show that one-third of Americans fall short of those recommendations. And it increases our risk for chronic conditions:
- anxiety and depression
- increased pain
- lowered immune function
- heart problems
- motor vehicle and machine accidents
The National Institutes of Health says that more than 40 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, and many don’t even know it. The most common of those is insomnia, narcolepsy (overwhelming daytime drowsiness), bruxism (excess teeth grinding/jaw clenching), restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea.
You may have a sleep disorder if it routinely takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, if you wake throughout the night, and/or if you are sleepy during the day, need to take frequent naps, snore excessively, have muscle weakness.
Sleep helps people control their blood sugar, brain function, and mood. It’s an area of my health that I didn’t value for a long time, but I’ve been working on it.
Strategies to get enough sleep
- Set a schedule. Go to bed about the same time each night, and get up about the same time each morning to help set your body’s rhythm.
- Sleep in a dark, quiet, cool bedroom, and use it only for sleep and sex.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine and nicotine (stimulants) and alcohol (depressant), particularly close to bedtime.
- Create a ‘worry book’ to keep beside the bed, to write down concerns if your mind is racing as you try to settle down or if you awake with anxious thoughts.
- If you can’t sleep, go to another room to do something relaxing.
- Exercise regularly, but not vigorously near bedtime.
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual – a calming book, bath, meditation, or gentle yoga.
What’s worked for you? My latest approach has been to create a relaxing bedtime ritual, since my problem tends to be not going to bed early enough. How about for you? What’s your struggle?
Welcome! I’m Amy, an integrative health coach, offering grace and space for a healthier you. This article is Step 10 in the “31 Steps to a Healthier You” series. You can access all posts in the series here. And if you liked this, please subscribe at this link to my newsletter, the Well Check.