You probably already know that sleep is one of the most important habits in our lives. Sleep has been shown to do all of the following:
- Improve learning, creativity, and memory
- Boost alertness and mood
- Support a healthy body weight
- Reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia
And while these benefits of sleep might not surprise you, it could be eye-opening to learn that we are sleeping an hour less per night now than we did just a generation ago, and nearly three quarters of Americans report not getting enough sleep. In fact, a recent survey showed that Americans average just 6.5 hours of shut-eye per weeknight, which is less than all but one of the other countries included in the study (only Japanese slept less).
If that stat of 6.5 hours per night seems pretty good, Dr. Dow says to think again. He asserts that we need to be getting about 8 hours of sleep per night, and anything less just won't suffice.
If you want to establish a healthy relationship with sleep, a good first step is to prioritize it in your life instead of always staying in overdrive. The experts also recommend to establish and stick to a consistent sleep schedule, ideally going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day (including weekends).
But what if you still just can't seem to fall asleep?
Here are some tips from The Brain-Fog Fix for a consistent good night sleep:
- Regulate your wake and sleep cycles by exposing yourself to as much light as possible during the day, and limit exposure to light in the evenings
- Open your blinds and turn on lights immediately upon waking
- Go outside for a walk or a run in the morning to get some sunlight (and some exercise)
- At work, position your desk to face a window
- Nap in the mid-afternoon if needed (Keep it short to about 20 minutes so nighttime rhythms aren't disrupted). This might not be realistic for everyone, but an increasing number of companies offer on-site nap rooms for a short midday snooze
- Shut off electronics close to bedtime, saying goodnight to your TV, phone, computer, and tablet at least an hour before you go to sleep
- Remove electronic devices from your bedroom altogether. A great way to spend time before sleeping is to read a real book under dim lighting
- If you absolutely must use your devices in the evening, make sure to turn them to the dimmest setting possible to reduce blue light exposure
- Take a hot shower or warm bath before bed for relaxation and to set your body temperature for sleep
- Keep your bedroom cool, between 66-68 degrees. However, make sure your feet are warm otherwise you might not be able to sleep (consider wearing socks)
I have also found that it helps to keep a notepad next to my bed to jot down anything on my mind at bedtime, including a short list of what I want to accomplish the next day. Getting these things out of my head and onto paper often provides the peace of mind to fall asleep. On a similar note, Lewis Howes, New York Times best-selling author of The School of Greatness, recommends the nightly practice of writing down the three things you are most grateful for. This is a great way to get in the right mental place at bedtime.
So whatever you're doing late at night, shut it off and go to sleep instead. For most people, sleeping in is not an option and therefore going to bed earlier is the only way to get the recommended amount of sleep.
Hopefully the above tools and tips help you create the best sleep routine that works for you.
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