Why we Don’t get enough sleep? You’re not alone. The majority of Americans are in this category, and the consequences aren’t pretty. In fact, getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity! This article explains why so many Americans don’t get enough sleep, and then offers tips to help you actually get more sleep each night so you can be healthier and happier!
Why We Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Consuming too much caffeine
Whether it’s a can of soda, a couple cups of coffee or even chocolate, too much caffeine may be causing us to get fewer hours of sleep than we actually need. Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause sleep disturbances, often in patterns like insomnia. Coffee may give you that all-important jolt of energy in the morning, but when consumed close to bedtime it can result in disturbed sleep throughout the night.
To help ensure you’re getting enough rest (seven to nine hours for most people), aim to consume your last caffeinated beverage at least four hours before bed.
Sleeping with artificial lights on
Did you know that if you sleep with your light on you can mess up your body clock? Even if it’s just a nightlight, turning lights on in your bedroom after sunset could interrupt your melatonin levels. If you want to sleep better, consider shutting off all lights in your bedroom at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
Some researchers even recommend turning off all electronics (or at least putting them away from where you sleep) as well as using curtains or shades instead of an open window or dimmer switch by your bed to create an ideal sleeping environment.
Pain and anxiety medications
Common painkillers like ibuprofen can wreak havoc on your sleep if you take them too close to bedtime. Instead, go for a soothing hot bath or cool shower before bed. If you have something stressful during the day, try taking 3-4 milligrams of melatonin at night, Dr. Kapoor says.
There are also natural remedies for anxiety that include lemon balm and chamomile tea. And when it comes to stopping those restless leg syndrome episodes in their tracks? Most of my patients find that plantar fascia stretching before bed is a big help, Dr. Apovian says.
Some people are more susceptible to sleep loss from screens. Multiple studies have shown that using screens in bed before sleeping can disrupt sleep patterns, and even make it more difficult to fall asleep.
If you suspect you might be one of these people, consider placing your phone far away (in another room) when going to bed so you’ll be less tempted to check for updates. To ensure your screen is off-limits for at least an hour before bedtime, set a screen-free alarm as well; it’s a great way to avoid staring at your clock and counting down until lights out.
Stressful jobs and activities
Perhaps it’s not surprising that so many of us don’t get enough sleep, but what is surprising is just how bad a lack of sleep can be for your health. One study found that people who get less than six hours of sleep are four times more likely to die from stroke and eight times more likely to die from heart disease than those who consistently get seven to eight hours of shut-eye. Stressful jobs and activities, such as shift work or fighting crime, only make matters worse.
Scientists believe it may have something to do with stress hormones called glucocorticoids; these hormones influence blood pressure and increase insulin resistance in adults and also delay growth in children by slowing down bone formation.
Lack of exercise
Staying physically active during your workday—through activities like walking, stretching, and using a standing desk or treadmill—may help you feel more energized when you sit down to a meal.
But even those with healthy diets sometimes aren’t getting enough exercise. Just an hour of moderate-intensity exercise three times per week can make a big difference. Aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, which could include cycling or walking at lunchtime most days of the week. It doesn’t have to be all at once—try 10-minute increments throughout your day.
Our obsession with multi-tasking
Multitasking may be a good thing for computers, but it’s not so great for humans. Multitasking can make us less productive and more prone to errors. Rather than doing two things at once, try doing one thing at a time, preferably in a quiet setting where you can concentrate on your task.
This will help you to avoid stress while getting more done and making fewer mistakes in your work. If distractions are unavoidable (hey, you’re human), change your routine: Turn off your phone before bed or leave it behind as you take an afternoon walk with a friend; say no to social media requests until after dinner; or have that hard conversation before hopping on video chat with friends abroad.
Insufficient sleep hygiene practices
The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that most Americans (76 percent) don’t get enough sleep. Some people can go a few days on little to no sleep, while others may start to show signs of fatigue after just one night with less than six hours of shut-eye.
But how do you know when your insufficient sleep habits have become poor sleeping hygiene? To find out, ask yourself these questions: Is it hard for me to wake up in the morning? Does my body ache? Do I feel tired all day long? Are my moods unpredictable or easily set off? Have I experienced a dip in my mental performance or an increase in forgetfulness? If so, you may need some help establishing healthier sleeping practices.