Content and Editorial Director
If you feel you don't get enough sleep, you're not alone.
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect energy levels, judgment, mood, the ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. And studies show that in the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.
So, how much sleep do you actually need? And how do you get it?
Though it certainly varies per person, the National Sleep Foundation says that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Babies, young children, and teens need even more sleep to enable their growth and development. And people over 65 should get 7 to 8 hours per night. For some of us, getting this much sleep is easier said than done. Here are some tips for getting more of it.
Exercising boosts the effect of our natural sleep hormones, such as melatonin. Just be cognizant of the timing of your workouts. Exercising too close to bedtime can keep you up. A morning workout is ideal, because exposing yourself to bright daylight first thing in the morning will help your natural circadian rhythm (sleep cycle).
2. Watch What You Eat and Drink
Avoid eating a big meal within two to three hours of bedtime. You’ll also want to stay away from wine and chocolate near bedtime. Chocolate contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. And while people think wine makes them sleepy, it can act as a stimulant and disrupt sleep during the night.
3. Get Comfortable
Make sure your bedroom is as comfy as possible. Ideally you want a quiet, dark, cool environment which can promote the onset of sleep.
4. Reserve Your Bed for Sleep and Sex
Don't respond to emails in bed. Avoid watching late-night TV there. The bed needs to be a stimulus for intimacy and sleeping, not stress or distractions.
5. Start a Sleep Ritual
In childhood, perhaps you were tucked in and read a story, and this comforting ritual helped lull you to sleep. Even in adulthood, bedtime rituals can have a similar effect. Drink a glass of warm milk. Take a bath. Or listen to calming music to unwind before bed.
Daytime worries can bubble to the surface at night. Stress is a stimulus, activating our fight-or-flight hormones that work against sleep. So, give yourself time to wind down before bed. You might even try deep breathing exercises.
7. See a Doctor
An urge to move your legs, snoring, and a burning pain in your stomach, chest, or throat are symptoms of three common sleep disrupters—restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. If these symptoms are keeping you up at night or making you sleepy during the day, be sure to see your doctor for an evaluation.
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