You can’t be healthy, mentally or physically, without getting good sleep. If you need help to get better sleep, keep reading. It’s astounding how much better sleep can contribute to your quality of life.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
For most people, that means between 7 to 9 hours per night. Most people don’t do well on less than 7 hours, OR more than 9 hours of sleep.
Yet there are over 70 different known sleep disorders, and the majority of adults (60 percent), and even higher numbers of children (69 percent), experience one or more sleep problems each week, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) refers to poor sleep habits as a “public health epidemic.”
“Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.”
– Centers for Disease Control
Did you know that approximately 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness that is severe enough to interfere with daily activities, several times each month? About half of those have problems with sleepiness several days per week.
Sleepiness is associated with vehicle accidents, of course. We’ve all heard of “falling asleep at the wheel”. It’s also a risk factor when working with any heavy equipment.
Many people try to use stimulants to compensate. They may choose caffeine or stronger drugs, but stimulants can’t overcome daytime sleepiness for long, and used consistently, they take a toll on your health. There’s nothing wrong with a cup of coffee in the morning for most people, and it may be even be helpful, due to the dose of antioxidants it contains. However, when it takes multiple cups, or you’re popping pills to jumpstart yourself, you’re headed for a health problem eventually.
18 Benefits of Good Sleep
- Lower stress
- Longer life
- Improved mood
- Reduced migranes and headaches
- Improved attractiveness
- Better athletic performance
- Reduced inflammation
- Decreased body fat
- Improved metabolism
- Better immune system functioning
- Decreased risk of depression
- Improved memory
- Increased creativity
- Improved critical thinking/decision making
- Increased focus/concentration
- Improved sex life
- Decreased dependence on stimulants
- Decreased risk of accident
Tips to Help Get Better Sleep
- Go to bed at the same time each night, as much as possible, and rise at the same time each morning.
- Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning, if you can, and try to get outside during the day. In climates where there is limited daylight during certain seasons, a light therapy box can be helpful to shift to a healthy circadian rhythym.
- Avoid eating (especially large meals) within three hours of bedtime. Some people find that a spoonful or two of a high protein food such as yogurt, peanut butter or turkey about an hour before bed helps them sleep better.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine.
- Try a warm bath or shower before bed.
- Be sure you drink enough during the day, so you’re not dehydrated, and finish your day with a warm caffeine-free beverage such as chamomile tea. Don’t, however, drink within an hour of going to bed.
- Do not exercise within two hours of bedtime. Yes, exercise can help you sleep better, and is encouraged, but not right before bed.
- Reduce your light exposure an hour before bed. This means stop watching TV, working on the computer, or using your tablet or phone. Turn down the lights you do not need. This is one of the most powerful ways to sleep better.
- Meditation or deep breathing exercise in the last hour before bed can be helpful. Integrate these relaxation techniques into a bedtime ritual that signals your body that it’s time to sleep.
- Sleep in a completely darkened room.
- Try different kinds of pillows. Some people love memory foam cool pillows, others find natural down is right for them.
- Some people find that an hour of repetitive soft music or the noise of a fan helps them sleep.
- Certain nutritional supplements such as magnesium or melatonin can be very helpful for better sleep.
Speak to your doctor if you think you may have a sleep disorder, or you are struggling with sleeping. Here at the Dr. Susan Jamieson Integrative Medical Practice, we treat Hong Kong residents with insomnia, narcolepsy, heartburn and other sleep disorders.