Sleep Awareness Week: 7 Days to Better Sleep
This year’s National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week is April 23 to April 29, 2017 and the focus will be on how sleeping better will make you feeling better.
The seven days will be dedicated to raising awareness of common sleep problems and how they can affect your health. Did you know that more than one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep on a daily basis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Sleep deprivation not only affects your ability to be a top performer at work, it can also take a toll on your health and put you more at risk for dangerous behaviors like driving when you are drowsy.
Too many people see sleep as luxury they can’t really afford with their busy schedules, but the negative effects of sleep deprivation can be pretty permeating. It impairs your ability to learn new things and make decisions and to multitask. It also makes you less alert which puts yourself and those around you more at risk for accidents and injuries. It also has more long-term implications like a greater risk for diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity.
If you have found yourself feeling extra tired and constantly sick lately, this might be a good time to reevaluate your sleep routine. Certain habits like keeping electronics out of the room and avoiding caffeine later in the day can help give you a better night’s sleep. Here are some healthy habits you can adopt during Sleep Awareness Week.
Calculate how much sleep you need
The general recommendation for adults is to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Looking at what time you need to be up in the morning figure out what time you need to go to bed to get at least seven hours of sleep. If in order to get to work on time you need to be up at 6 a.m., then you should be in bed by 11 p.m. Keep in mind that children need more like ten to twelve hours so make sure they have a consistent sleep schedule as well.
Don’t eat before bedtime
Sometime work and family commitments can make a regular dinner time possible, but as much as possible you should eat your dinner at least a couple of hours before you go to bed and stay away from late night snacks that will give you indigestion and make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. Spicy and fatty foods are especially bad for sleep while on the flip side carbohydrates actually improve your sleep. Sticking to healthy, balanced meals throughout the day is best for you. If you have to eat a late snack, stick to something small like crackers and peanut butter or a handful of nuts.
Take a break from electronics
With the advent of smartphones, it has become harder and harder to separate ourselves from social media and work emails and most of us are checking our phones all the way up until we shut our eyes. This is bad for our sleep quality though. You can’t really unwind and relax and switch to sleep mode if you are constantly on the offensive.
At least for an hour or two before bed, you should carve out some non-electronic time and do something else like read a book or write in your journal. If you use your phone as an alarm clock, then you need to be disciplined enough to just set the clock and not take a peek at Facebook or your email.
Create a little sleep oasis in your bedroom
Sometimes your inability to get enough sleep stems from your physical environment. An old mattress or lumpy pillows can do more damage than you might realize. If you find yourself tossing and turning a lot at night and your mattress is ten years old or older then you should consider buying a new mattress. Try a bunch out and find the one that contours your body the best. Also refresh your pillows.
The temperature in the room as well as a lot of clutter can also impact your ability to slip into la la land. You know how hard it is to sleep when you have piles of laundry scattered around the room. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the colors of your room can also impact your sleep with blues and greens and pastels having a soothing effect on you.
Create a regular bedtime routine
Humans are creatures of habit. If you do the same thing each night before bed, it will signal to your mind and body that it is time for some zzz’s. Most parents have one for their kids — bath and bedtime story for example, but adults need one too. Besides going to bed at the same time each night, you can prepare by taking a warmth bath, reading, listening to music or meditation.
On a quick note about the weekends, you might be tempted to stay up late and sleep till noon on the weekends, but this actually messes up your system. Your internal circadian rhythm will get messed up if you can’t stick to a regular waking and sleeping schedule.
Purposely unload stress before getting into bed
Stress is a part of everyday life, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it keep you up at night. No matter what you are worried about, you need to purposely choose to take a break from it and put it aside for the night. Of course, this is easier said than done, but meditating and journaling can help you better control your mind so you can choose to focus on pleasant things as you fall asleep. If something just won’t leave your mind and is causing you to toss and turn, you might try getting out of bed and jotting down what is bothering you and how you will handle it in the morning. Then you can return to sleep knowing you did everything you could at that time.
The most important thing is that you continue these healthier habits past Sleep Awareness Week and you also incorporate healthy eating and exercise as well because these are all important for living a happier, healthier life.