Over the past few decades, adults have reported a decline in the average number of hours of sleep they get each night. According to the Sleep Foundation, there are several health consequences which result from getting too little sleep each night. Whether we are pressured to work too many hours in the day or we simply can’t fall asleep when it is time for bed, not sleeping enough can make us cranky and can even make us dangerous drivers. In 2013 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that “drowsy driving” caused 72,000 crashes.
What can you do to increase the amount of sleep you get each night? The first step is to make sleeping a priority. American society has created a stigma around getting enough sleep, and often, our job culture rewards employees who “pull all-nighters” and work around the clock. Learning to resist these negative work patterns are important for prioritizing sleep. Remember that your work performance in the day (during normal work hours) will be even better if you are well-rested.
If you are having trouble falling asleep at night, identify some possible causes. Are you ruminating on the events of the day? Perhaps you can seek counseling to help you overcome unaddressed issues in your life. Have you had too much caffeine in the day? Livestrong states that caffeine can remain in your system for up to 10 hours after your last cup. That means you could still be feeling the effects of a cup of coffee from noon at 10:00 PM that evening.
If you are unable to determine what is causing your sleeplessness, consult a medical expert. Sleep studies are a way for healthcare professionals to help you determine whether you have a common condition such as sleep apnea, a disorder that causes your breathing to become erratic, stopping and starting throughout the night. Over 200,000 cases of sleep apnea are diagnosed in the United States every year.
Once you have pinpointed the root cause of your lack of sleep, work on improving your sleep habits. Develop a sleep schedule, and stick to it. Set a reminder on your phone to help you remember to shut down for the evening. When the reminder goes off, turn on the airplane mode feature so you will not be tempted to check texts or last-minute e-mails.
Taking a shower or bath at night can help you fall asleep faster, according to Time Magazine. Reading a book may also relax your brain enough to transition from work-mode to resting mode. You may also want to try listening to soothing sounds. The National Sleep Foundation suggests three types of sounds for sleeping: white noise (such as a fan), pink noise (like a rain shower or ocean waves crashing), and music without words.
Let members of your household know that you are trying to improve your sleep schedule, and encourage them to keep the house quiet during your sleep times so that your sleep is uninterrupted. With a full night’s sleep, you will awake refreshed and ready for the next day.