Sleep deprivation is much more than a restless night. The CDC recognizes insufficient sleep as a major public health concern, with 50 to 70 million US adults experiencing sleep disorders. Additionally, between 30% and 50% of the general population is affected by insomnia, and 10% have chronic insomnia. Beyond causing a tired day at work, sleep deprivation can increase your risk of depression, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer, among other health concerns.
If you frequently have trouble falling or staying asleep at night, there are a few simple steps you can take to improve your sleep that don’t involve sleeping pills or medication. Known as sleep hygiene, follow these tips to promote good sleep habits and regular sleep.
- Establish a Sleep Routine
Bedtimes aren’t just for children. Your body and brain enjoys consistency when it comes to your sleep patterns. Go to bed around the same time each night and wake up at a consistent hour each morning. Your sleep routine should be the same for weekends and weekdays for optimal sleep. After several weeks of sticking to a routine, you will likely find it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up when your alarm goes off.
- Don’t Go to Bed Hungry—But Don’t Eat Right Before Bed
Going to bed hungry can keep you up at night, and it may cause you to get out of bed at midnight to gorge on snacks. However, eating right before bed can lead to indigestion or cause you to skip breakfast the next morning, which can interfere with your metabolism. The ultimate goal is balance. Aim to eat dinner at least a couple of hours before going to sleep. However, if you’re hungry after dinner, you may want to nibble on a piece of fruit or something light.
- Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine After Noon
We call them guilty pleasures for a reason. The effects of caffeine can last upwards of six hours, while nicotine alters your natural circadian rhythm and alcohol contributes to poor quality sleep. For proper sleep hygiene, cut out smoking cigarettes altogether, avoid nightcaps and stop drinking coffee or soda past your lunch hour. In general, you should also avoid drinking a lot of liquids before bed, as you’ll have to wake up in the middle of the night for trips to the bathroom.
- Exercise Regularly
Exercise does wonders for your body and can help you enjoy a good night’s sleep. Regularly exercising can reduce stress, which is a common cause of restless nights. Research has also found that exercise increases the time spent in deep sleep, increases the duration of one’s nightly rest and serve as an effective natural therapy for insomnia. Ideally, exercise for 20 minutes every day, even if it’s a slow jog around your neighborhood or cardio exercises in your living room.
- Transform Your Bedroom Into a Cave
Even small amounts of light or noise can disrupt your sleep. Making just a few changes to your bedroom can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Make sure your windows have