Adequate sleep is a must for everybody. Without it, our bodies and minds rapidly degenerate. Prolonged periods without sleep, or without enough sleep, can result in serious medical and psychological conditions, such as reducing the immune system’s ability to fight off disease, or even hallucinations.
Sleep experts say that adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night to be fully rested and alert. However, most Americans receive only between four and six hours sleep each night, and the quality of our sleep is also typically not that great. When the inevitable crash comes – and it will – sleep deprived people experience ultra-vivid dreams, and nightmares, that often make for a less than relaxing night’s rest.
As a consequence, sleep-deprived people do not function as well as those that are well-rested. In some occupations, such as airline pilots, this can be disastrous. The consequences for “normal” people can also be unpleasant. Irritability, inability to concentrate, irrational thinking, mood swings, and other similar problems can arise from lack of adequate sleep.
The good news is there are a number of ways we can get more and better rest each night.
Here are six tips for getting a better night’s rest:
• Try going to bed each night, and waking up each morning, at the same time. This establishes an internal routine that your body will have an easier time adapting to.
• Cut down on caffeine and alcohol consumption during the day. While it may seem like drinking alcohol makes it easier to relax and fall asleep, the quality people get after drinking alcohol – particularly to excess – is extremely poor. Caffeine is a stimulant, so best not to drink a lot during the day, and especially before bed, if you already have trouble sleeping.
• Keep the room comfortably dark. Its best to shut off or block any bright lights. If you have anxiety in extremely dark places, make sure there is a subtle light somewhere in the room. Make the room comfortable and safe for yourself.
• Get into a regular bedtime routine. Start your routine in time to fully relax before you go to bed. Some people read, drink a glass of water or milk, take a bath, or even meditate before bed. The important thing is to wind down and relax before you crawl into bed to sleep.
• Exercise regularly. I’ve posted a number of blogs on exercise and stress relief. I’ll continue to beat the drum. When you exercise you develop better mechanisms for dealing with stress. You also create a healthier body. All of this affects the quality of your sleep.
• If you still have trouble sleeping, don’t try and force yourself to fall asleep. This will only create more stress, and make it harder. If after 20 – 30 minutes in bed you cannot fall asleep, its best to get up and do some type of relaxing activity, such as meditation, and try again.
For many people, falling asleep is easy. For others, it can be difficult at times. Typically, for healthy people, periods of insomnia can be traced to some kind of stress, anxiety, or even anticipation of some future event, and is temporary. If you regularly have problems falling asleep, it may be time to talk to a professional. Seeing a medical doctor, or even a therapist, can yield great results.
Remember, while we may be tempted to skip sleep to get things done, doing so may have significant affects on our health, and on how much we actually get done. People who get adequate and good quality sleep are generally more creative and efficient. The next time you are thinking of trading sleep for getting things done, consider that you may actually feel better, and accomplish more, if you just go to bed and get to work when you are well rested.