Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
I don’t sleep well. I’ll admit it. But I am not alone. Surprisingly, “The average person gets less than seven hours of sleep every night” and “50 to 70 million adults in the U.S. are affected by a sleep disorder.”
70 million Americans. This number is alarming.
I thought everyone was sleeping well. Due to the mass-marketed sleep aides and natural sleep remedies — I thought people were snug in bed in REM sleep. But that isn’t the case. The numbers don’t lie. Sleep statistics show we have a problem — an epidemic.
The CDC is calling insufficient sleep a public health epidemic, and the American Sleep Apnea Organization explains why:
“Additionally, people are chronically sleep deprived as a result of demanding lifestyles and a lack of education about the impact of sleep loss. Sleepiness affects vigilance, reaction times, learning abilities, alertness, mood, hand-eye coordination, and the accuracy of short-term memory. Sleepiness has been identified as the cause of a growing number of on-the-job accidents, automobile crashes and multi-model transportation tragedies.”
Research shows the damaging effects insufficient sleep has on our health. But sometimes, we don’t heed the warning. We wait until our body fails us. And that was the case with Arianna Huffington, author and co-founder of The Huffington Post and founder and CEO of Thrive Global.
In a Ted Talk, Arianna shares her health scare and how sleep deprivation lead to life changes. In her own words, she shares how she “fainted from exhaustion, hit [her] head on a desk, broke [her] cheekbones, [and] got five stitches on[her] right eye.”
Arianna shares her story to help others “value sleep.”
The lesson — avoid getting to a point when lack of sleep negatively impacts your health. But what can you do? We live in a society that prioritizes the art of being busy. The answer — prioritize yourself and get enough sleep. Let your mind and body rest.
How Much is Enough?
Enough sleep allows you to meet the CDC recommended hours of sleep per day based on your age group, have a balanced lifestyle — mentally and physically, and extend your lifespan. Enough sleep can be anywhere between 7-9 hours per day.
Scientists now believe that sufficient, consistent, and quality sleep may be key to unlocking an increase in global life expectancy. Research shows that those individuals able to successfully reach very old age — the rare centenarians that live to 100 — generally experience optimal sleep across the lifespan. On the other hand, poor sleep may accelerate the aging process; sleep deprivation affects nearly every physiological function in the body. As a result, some studies even suggest that there is a relationship between insufficient sleep and life expectancy.
Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash
How to Get There
Some sleep disorders are due to a medical condition. Your health practitioner can review your symptoms and determine if this is the case. If you don’t have a sleep disorder, here are some tips to get enough sleep. They help. I know.
- Put down your phone — I’m sure you’ve heard this before. The blue light from your phone can keep you from getting rest.
“The blue light emitted by your cell phone screen restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle (aka circadian rhythm). This makes it even more difficult to fall asleep and wake up the next day.”
- Turn off the Television — I used to fall asleep with my television on — a terrible habit on many levels. But if you turn off the television a few hours before bedtime, you allow your mind to detox from external stimuli.
“Bruce Cameron, a licensed counselor who treats clients with media consumption issues specifically related to depression and anxiety, reports that binge-watching can negatively affect sleep, amongst other aspects of our lives. “The brain sorts and covers all of this material consciously and subconsciously,” Cameron says. “A person may ruminate or even obsess on certain things viewed.” This can lead to sleepless nights and difficult days.”
- Journal — Get it out of your head. Whatever it is, write it down. Writing things down allows you to declutter your mind.
In one study, 41 college students plagued by bedtime worries were randomly assigned to self-help strategies. One group was asked to journal every night for a week. The study found journaling reduced bedtime worry and stress, increased sleep time, and improved sleep quality.
By no means is this an exhaustive list. Other strategies are available to help you get enough sleep and sleep better. These are ways that have helped me. So on those weary nights, when I’m up at 4 am trying to figure out my next article or writing my grocery list — these steps help me go to sleep. Hopefully, the tips are guideposts for you too.