May is Better Sleep Month, So Start Sleeping Better!
The Better Sleep Council designated May as annual Better Sleep Month in order to help people find ways to solve the epidemic of sleep loss and bring awareness to the issue. Sleepocalypse is the moniker used this year by the Better Sleep Council as it accurately describes sleep loss as a health outbreak, and hopes to alert the public to its potential dangers.
How bad is the Sleepocalypse?
While some people experience chronic health problems that prevent them from getting enough sleep or sleeping soundly, a recent study shows that 157 million Americans, which is half of the adult population, simply are not doing things they could to improve their rest. The most sleep-deprived group according to the Better Sleep Council is 33-54 year old adults, of whom 52% report sleep deprivation. We know that we need more sleep, we are just simply choosing to stay up late surfing Pinterest or watching Fresh Prince reruns.
Though the saying goes, sleep when you’re dead, is that few extra hours a day really worth the impact on your health and happiness? Several studies have been conducted in the last couple years showing just how harmful sleep loss can be, with effects ranging from severe health implications (heart stress, diabetes risk), to mental impairment (slow reactions, bad mood, similar to being drunk), to negative effects on our appearance (skin condition, acne, weight gain). Knowing everything you risk when you stay up a couple hours later can put things into perspective, showing just how much better sleep can do.
Steps You Can Take for Better Sleep
We challenge you (and ourselves!) to tackle the challenge of better sleep this month and see if it can make a difference in your life. In an effort to take a proactive stance and reclaim vigor and vitality, consider trying the following universal suggestions to get better sleep and improve your life. If it all seems like too much to do at once, consider incorporating one change per week into your routine. If you can stick with these tips for at least three weeks, you have a good chance of forming lasting better sleep habit.
Nix the Electronics
Turn off televisions and laptops in the bedroom, and particularly when going to bed. Almost 92% of the population uses these despite the fact that 37% of them know they are potential sleep robbers. The light used in the displays disrupts the natural circadian rhythm, confusing the brain. If you are used to using these items to relax, replace them with a bedside lamp and book or magazine.
Cell phones and notepads emit light that can be disruptive for sleep. Young adults aged 18-34 report that 38% use theirs in bed daily. Their light is not the only problem associated with keeping a smartphone nearby, they can also induce stress, or simply make disruptive noise when receiving a call or text. While it may not be practical to shut it off, especially if there is not a landline, lowering the volume and covering the face by turning it over can be beneficial. Insist on only emergency phone calls or texts after a set time of day from your pals, and don’t allow children to use theirs at night. There are even apps available for iPhone and Android devices that filter calls during specific hours, only allowing preset numbers to ring through as well.
Yes, routine can be boring, but our bodies crave sleep consistency. Try not to vary your bed time and waking schedules too much, including on the weekends. Although many people believe they can adapt to less sleep and still function well, studies have shown that this is false. Nearly 69% of the 78% of all adults who constantly stray from their sleep schedule recognize that it is hard on their body and mind, yet continue to do so. Significant reductions in cognitive activities, memory and reaction times have been proven after only one night of insufficient sleep, although the subjects of the studies failed to recognize they were suffering. It’s tempting to think you can catch up on missed shut eye over the weekend but science says its just not so. The Better Sleep Council suggests setting bed time alarm as well as a wake up alarm to remind you to get ready for bed.
Prepare Your Mind for Sleep
Create a ritual that allows you to relax and unwind before going to bed. This could include lowering lights, possibly having a snack (protein is best) or taking a warm bath. Doing so helps relax the body and mind while erasing stress and tension. Avoid stimulants such as sugar, coffee, pop and alcohol which can disrupt sleep. Though 3/4 of us know better, nearly 2/3 of adults don’t follow this advice. Another helpful tip here is to only use your bed for sleep. Don’t surf the net, watch hours of TV, study or work in bed. Reserving your bed only for rest tells your subconscious mind to prepare for sleep when you lay down.
Be Active During the Day
Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, regardless of the intensity, although the best rest was reported by people with moderate to intense workouts. Many people enjoy working out in the morning on their way to work, or on their way home to separate the workday stress from their home life. Even a brisk walk or bike ride around the neighborhood, walking to the store down the street, parking farther, and taking the stairs can all help boost your activity levels and lead to better sleep. You can even setup a treadmill or recumbent bike in front of your TV at home while you catch up on your favorite shows or read a book (multitasking!).
Don’t Overlook Your Mattress
Although 83% of the adult population understands how important a comfortable mattress is, only 43% make a comfortable mattress a priority. A key point is that 63% of the people who sleep well state that it is one of the most important elements to their sleep. Each type of mattress has a different lifespan, however if yours is over 7-8 years, particularly an innerspring, it should probably be replaced. People are often hesitant to do so because of the cost, however consider that you spend almost 250 hours per month in bed – likely more than any other place in your home. A quality mattress is worthwhile investment in your health and sleep quality, and there are always good deals to be found. (Take a look at our helpful mattress shopping tips and guides for pointers).
Another sleep-stealing issue can arise when couples disagree about mattresses or have different sleep needs. If this is a problem due to requiring different levels of support, mattresses can be purchased in memory foam or latex with different levels of firmness on each side. If one partner must be propped up due to a condition like acid reflux or surgery recovery, consider a home adjustable base that allows each side to adjust to their preferred position while remaining side by side.
Start Getting Better Sleep Today!
Weight gain, aging skin, depression, heart issues, diabetes, mood/relationship issues, stress, and a general feeling of unattractiveness can all be connected with sleep deprivation, in addition to feeling tired, sluggish and unmotivated all day. By following the above suggestions and making a conscious effort to sleep better, you can celebrate Better Sleep Month and start developing healthier habits.
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