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How To Get a Good Night’s Sleep

It should be so easy. You go to bed, close your eyes and drift off to sleep. But for so many people, this simple goal can be frustratingly elusive.

Most adults should sleep for seven to nine hours every night. This (ideally) uninterrupted stretch gives your body a needed respite from the rigors of daily living. It allows your body time to focus on healing and rebuilding energy stores.

And yet for one in seven adults, this is a daily challenge.

What Is Sleep Deprivation?

Some people are plagued by insomnia, a common sleep disorder that can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep and avoid waking up too early. But others experience a closely related condition known as sleep deprivation, where you don’t give yourself enough time to sleep. This condition is often related to lifestyle or life circumstances. These include:

  • Bad sleep habits
  • Stress
  • Shift work (particularly when you work during the night)
  • Consuming caffeine and other stimulants close to bedtime
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Sleeping in an unfamiliar bed or location

Sleep deprivation can also be related to sleep apnea, concussions, pain, insomnia, medications and short-term illnesses.

The longer you function in a sleep-deprived state, the worse your symptoms will be. If it goes on long enough, the symptoms can actually begin to mimic those associated with alcohol intoxication. Among the common symptoms:

  • Being sleepy during daytime hours
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Difficulty focusing or thinking clearly
  • Slower reaction times
  • Headaches

Sleep deprivation can also have significant health implications the longer it continues. The condition can increase your risk for obesity, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, while also weakening your body’s immune system.

Better Sleep Strategies

Often, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of drifting off to dreamland and staying there long enough to give your body the rest it needs. Let’s look at some strategies:

Build a Routine: Start by figuring out when you need to get up each morning. Count back eight hours and that’s your bedtime. This provides the foundation for your sleep plan.

No Electronics: Now that you have a bedtime, it’s time to build in a one-hour electronics-free buffer zone. This can be tough in a world where so many people have difficulty going more than a few minutes without checking their phones. But to help your brain get ready for sleep, you need to give it a break from screen time. That includes your cell phone, television, computer monitor, tablet or anything else that exposes your eyes to light.

Read or Listen to Music: Just because you aren’t looking at a screen doesn’t mean you lack entertainment options. Read a book, listen to music or write some notes for the coming day. This should be content that’s not going to create any more stress.

Cut the Fluids: About the same time you turn off the video screens, it’s also time to stop drinking fluids. This will improve your chances of not interrupting your sleep to get up to use the bathroom. If anything wakes you up, that increases the risk that you won’t get a full night’s rest. Similarly, it’s best to stop eating solid food three hours before bedtime, since any digestive issues will also affect your sleep.

Have a Caffeine Deadline: This is for people who are sensitive to caffeine. If that’s you, plan to have your last sip of caffeine five to six hours before bedtime.

Remember What Alcohol Does: Drinking alcohol before bedtime could have consequences later in the night, because of the way it metabolizes in your blood. You may fall asleep easily, but then find yourself awake later because of the stimulating effect.

Write it Down: If you find yourself lying in bed with your mind racing, take a few minutes to write your thoughts down. Keep a pen and journal (or notepad) by your bed. Then you can turn the lights on, write down whatever is on your mind, and then go back to sleep. This should help put your mind at rest.

One of the keys to a healthy life is a healthy sleep routine. Do what you can to help your body get the rest it needs.

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