If you're finding it hard to sleep lately, you're not alone. Working longer hours and taking on more family commitments has created a sleep deprivation crisis. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 42% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep and a recent study revealed almost 30% of American adults are getting six hours or less of sleep per night. And that was before the stress of dealing with a pandemic. That lack of sleep can increase the risk of disease, not to mention have a negative mental effect. Luckily, there are a few key steps you can take to start catching some more restful zzz's. Here are three:
- Use a sleep calculator
Yes, this is a thing. Basically, we go through predictable sleep cycles transitioning between deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep. And if you wake up during a deep sleep cycle, you will feel groggy. So the reason you could be feeling horrible most mornings is due to waking up in the wrong part of your cycle. To combat that, simply use a sleep calculator where you input the time you need to wake up, and it will tell you what time you should be going to bed. Sometimes getting less overall sleep is actually better. You can track it for free on websites like Sleep Calculator.
- Unplug before bed
Find yourself watching TV or scrolling through social media to unwind at the end of the day but then have trouble sleeping? The reason is the blue light emitted from those screens suppresses the body’s secretion of melatonin, which helps regulate your circadian rhythm. That's why it's important to shut off all devices at least an hour -- ideally this would be two-to-three hours -- before bedtime. This allows for the natural hormone production to occur and, therefore, a better night's sleep.
- Control the light
Along with limiting blue light exposure, it's important to control other light throughout the day. Exposing yourself to a lot of bright light during the day actually helps you sleep better at night because it supports your natural circadian rhythm. But too much bright light towards the end of the day can impede it. You'll want to be in a dimmer environment before bed. While this can more easily be accomplished in the summer by taking walks outside and closing curtains at night, it can be hard to control these things during the darker winter months. During those times, you could get a clock that simulates the sunrise and sunset to help align your circadian rhythm.