For American adults, and especially parents, it seems like there’s an inverse relationship between the need for a good night’s sleep and how much we actually get.
Research by the Mayo Clinic concludes that lack of sleep can affect our immune system and that extra sleep can help us heal more efficiently. Healthy adults need 7-9 hours sleep each night, according to The National Sleep Foundation, yet few of us get that with any consistency.
Adequate sleep isn’t only a quality of life issue, it turns out to be one of the more health initiatives we can leverage. Americans average just 6.8 hours, Gallup reports, down by over an hour from 1942, when the average adult logged closer to eight hours of slumber per night.
A consistent good night’s sleep is just about the most underutilized health, marriage, and parenting aids at our disposal. We need more than we’re getting, and we need it every night.
The good news is that there are several simple interventions we can utilize to get us back on track for better sleep patterns. If you want to improve the quality of your life, learn these 5 ways to make sure you can sleep through the night.
1. Pray for a peaceful mind:
We fret over problems, details, conflicts, and, most importantly, primary relationships. Then we can’t seem to settle down. Research demonstrates that getting up and going to another part of the house (no lights) will help us to refocus. Then simply return to bed and go to sleep. Prayer and meditation are also strongly correlated with a “quietening of the mind.”
2. Get off the screen:
One huge sleep disrupter is technology and its 24/7 availability. The National Sleep Foundation reports that texting in the hour before bed significantly impacts sleep. “With artificial lighting, we’ve been able to fool our brain and internal clocks that it’s still daylight and remain alert,” wrote said Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD, a neurology professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and director of its Sleep Disorders Center in Chicago. “Bedtimes have become later, but wake times have not.” And Alyssa Cairns, PhD, a sleep research scientist at SleepMed Inc. in Columbia, S.C. points out, “Exposure to blue light can suppress melatonin, which allows transition to sleep.” Some of the culprits are: smartphones, televisions, tablets, and computers.
3. Practice consistency:
Inconsistent sleep is a big no-no. According to the Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep, our internal clocks are fairly touchy, and we need to regulate them like any other finely tuned instrument. The best way to standardize sleep patterns is to keep a schedule.
4. Keep work and other distractions out of the bedroom:
If you are anything like me, you likely have a cluttered nightstand. According to the American Psychological Association, a cluttered sleep environment makes for a cluttered mind. “When you eliminate the stuff in your bedroom that isn’t related to sleep, your brain starts to associate the room only with sleep and intimacy,” says Lawrence Epstein, medical director of Sleep Health Centers in Boston.
5. Modify your diet:
Forty-one million U.S. adults sleep six hours or less each night, and diet is a heavy contributor. The following five foods have been cited as significant sleep disrupters:
- Alcohol: It may make you feel sleepy, but research shows drinking alcohol makes you more likely to wake during the night, leaving you feeling less rested in the morning.
- Coffee: Caffeine has a half-life of five hours, which means 25% of it will still be in your system even 10 hours later.
- Dark chocolate: Good for antioxidants, but still a high source of caffeine as well as theobromine which has caffeine-like effects.
- Spicy foods: Indigestion makes it nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep.
- Fatty foods: When we’re sleep deprived, we tend to crave high fat, high sugar foods the next day. It’s a vicious cycle because a high fat diet also impacts sleep, including more fragmented sleep.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why is sleep so important?”