People can struggle getting to sleep at night for a litany of reasons. Whether its stress, cell phones, or an actual sleep disorder, many find themselves sluggish or lacking energy from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation has been shown to impair cognitive functions such as attention and working memory and to decrease overall quality of life (Alhola & Polo-Kanola, 2007). Because of this, it is important to establish a decent sleep schedule and stick to it. There are several practices that can improve your ability to fall asleep and help you stay asleep throughout the night.
According to the National Institutes of Health (2016), the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night. While we can typically overcome missing a couple hours on occasion, prolonged or repeated periods of insufficient sleep can have negative outcomes for both your physical and emotional health. Between the impaired cognitive functions and decreased mood, lacking sufficient sleep is not fun. The first step to getting a good night’s sleep is developing good sleep hygiene. This means making certain lifestyle and dietary choices that will allow you to sleep soundly.
Get in tune with your circadian rhythm, the brain’s natural 24-hour clock that makes you feel alert during the day and sleepy at night. Although it can be messed up by extended periods of inconsistent sleep, it is relatively easy to fix. Try going to bed and waking up at the same each day for a couple days, and your sleep schedule should begin adjusting back to normal. Ideally, you should maintain this schedule all the time, though the occasional missed day should not affect it too much. Developing a nightly routine can also help you stick with your sleep schedule. Find some relaxing music or read a book, but definitely shut of all the electronics.
Cell Phones and Television
In the evening, you should aim to use low lighting in general; however, the bright, blue lights from electronic devices are particularly troublesome. Light of any kind can suppress the production of Melatonin, the natural hormone that makes us feel tired when it gets dark, but artificial blue light does so even more powerfully (Harvard Health Letter, 2012). In this sense, looking at your phone can stimulate the brain and disturb your sleep schedule. Not only does it simulate and surpass natural late at keeping you alert, but it also prevents you from getting a good night’s rest by requiring constant attention. I would also recommend installing a dimmer switch for your lights so that you can adjust it at night.
Nicotine and Caffeine
Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulants that have the potential to keep you up at night. Using them in the evening can both throw off your sleep schedule and decrease your overall amount of sleep. If you are set on using nicotine or caffeine, try to squeeze it in earlier in the day where it will have less of an impact on your ability to fall asleep.
Exercising regularly can help you feel tired enough at night to actually fall asleep. In addition to the numerous other health benefits, exercising during the day can impact how soundly you sleep at night. Working out too late, however, can also serve to keep you alert and awake, so all major physical activity should cease at least 3 hours before bed time.
Napping in the Evening
Try to avoid napping in the evening as you will feel less tired at night. This can throw off your sleep schedule and cause you to stay up later every night. For people who have to wake up by a certain time, it is crucial to make sure their bed time is early enough or them to get at least a full 7 hours of sleep.
Seeking Medical Help
If you are consistently tired after receiving a full night’s sleep or still cannot fall asleep after implementing these methods, then you may need to consult your doctor about how to get a better night’s sleep. They may suggest further practices to improve your sleep hygiene or recommend a medical device to assist in falling and staying asleep.
Have you had trouble sleeping? Let us know about your experiences and any methods that have worked for you.