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- Self-Help for Sleep Issues & Sleeplessness
Sleep is your Bestie.
Why Don't We Sleep?
An enormous amount of American's say they don't get enough sleep on a regular basis. One of the largest contributors to that nationwide issue is indeed, technology. Having access to your cell, your smart TV, your iPad, lap tops and and even artificial light ensures that you always have something to do other than to sleep. It's distracting and the light screws up our natural sleep cycle. In addition to all that - using these devices before you want to sleep can be counter productive. If you're invested in a TV show your brain is awake so you can watch it. It will take you longer to get to sleep if you put time into these things when you're ready to hit the sack. Dealing with technology and a few other things we'll discuss in this article can really help get us on the right track to having a well rested life.
Why We Need to Sleep
The amount of sleep we get really does affect your health and general well being. Even if you aren't getting enough sleep because you're getting up early to go for run, that lack of rest will affect your brain throughout the day. Some basic side effects of not getting enough sleep daily are memory loss, you're at a higher risk for things like obesity and heart disease and other illnesses, you find yourself less capable of processing and dealing with stress and stressful situations, and let's not forget your general mood. Take a look at the Stress Effects a lack of sleep will have your mind, body, behavior and emotions to see what is going on, and what could happen over time.
How Much Sleep do You Need?
The amount of sleep needed varies in individuals but also at certain ages. The National Sleep Foundation conducted a nationwide study to determine exactly what worked the best for people. Their study results (shown in the image), while based on the national results, can be broken down and determined for you, the individual by answering these questions:
- Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
- Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
- Are you experiencing sleep problems?
- Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
- Do you feel sleepy when driving?
How to Get More Sleep
Step one is always making sleep a priority in your life based on how much sleep you need. You can help make sleep a priority in your life by setting a self imposed bed time for yourself. If you set this time for 10 PM and that means you're in bed at 10:30 and asleep by 11:00, that's OK. You just have to stick with the plan as best you can.
Keeping yourself on some sort of schedule will help you fall asleep faster when you lay down. If you go to bed when you naturally feel tired that will be best for you as you won't find yourself tossing and turning through the night. Once you have had enough sleep you should wake up naturally. And remember, when you do find yourself tired, it's better to nap to make up for that lost sleep than it is to go to bed early. Napping well before 4 PM for just 20-30 minutes is your best bet. Doing so well before 5 PM helps ensure that it doesn't mess with you when you try to go to bed later. You can also expose yourself to more sunlight during the day to help ensure that you stay awake and alert all day.
Turn electronics off. These, just as sunlight does, produce melatonin, which will keep you awake and alert, so using them right before bed can be a bad idea. You might also try avoiding bright lights all together before bed even if they are just the overhead lights in your bedroom. Switch over to the bedside lamp or something else that will provide you with enough light to see what you are doing.
Things like daily exercise will help you sleep better. Daily exercise is good for you in general, but this, coupled with what you put into your body make a huge difference in the way you sleep. Making dinner time earlier and avoiding heavier meals (at least 2 hours before bed) means your stomach doesn't have to work as hard when you are ready to lay down. Believe it or not alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes are all stimulants that can keep you up at night as well as just injecting too many liquids before bed (which could keep you up). If you do find yourself hungry and bedtime try:
- Half a turkey sandwich
- A small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal
- Granola with low-fat milk or yogurt
- A banana
If you lay awake for 15 minutes or more, get up and do something then try again. You can try nibbling on something from the previous list, meditation, yoga poses, petting the cat... whatever it is just make sure it's not a stimulant of any kind so that you can get back to the bed time routine ASAP.