The Better Sleep Council recently distributed a poll in an effort to determine major causes of insomnia in our society. They found that many people, and more women than men, felt they were getting significantly less sleep than they should be due to the effects of stress. Three of the top stressors found to inhibit one’s good night sleep include (in ranking order from most common to least): Worry about family issues, concern about personal finances and worry about current events. The study also showed that many of these people who have trouble sleeping at least one night a week report a huge difference in their entire day and overall feeling of health after those evenings where they did in fact sleep well.
You might imagine that most people do not need a research study to convince them that a good night’s sleep would be in their best benefit. However, the numbers shown in the study from the Better Sleep Council, and others like it, are often necessary to wake people up (ha!) to the urgency of this epidemic among Americans.
An even more interesting finding concerns another factor contributing to many adults’ poor sleeping habits: Homework. Or rather, work you take home. The study found that an increasing number of professionals are bringing their office work home with them, and therefore pulling late nights or sometimes even all-night stretches just to get things done. This finding is ironic, though, because it also was concluded that the primary effect of little sleep on employees is a downgrade in the sleep-deprived person’s work performance.
Essentially, that means that these frantic efforts to be productive only work in the short term and as a consequence of staying up for that effort, the overall quality of the work in the long term is sacrificed. This is why it has become so common to see employees habitually seeking temporary quick fixes to help them stay awake the day after a poor night’s rest. Many resort to certain “pick me up” methods to try and restore the energy to their bodies and minds, such as smoking cigarettes, drinking caffeine, or taking “power naps” during lunch breaks. While these efforts may give them initial, almost teasing bursts of energy, they will never succeed in leaving the body feeling fully refreshed.
For whatever category of reasoning you fall into, you probably are at least somewhat aware if you are not getting the proper sleep your body requires. The question, now, is what can you do about it?
According to the National Sleep Foundation and the Better Sleep Council, there are a few things you can do to help you improve the quality and quantity of sleep you get each night:
*Try to maintain a schedule or routine in which you awake and lay down to rest at the same times each day and night.
*Establish a before-bed routine to get you prepared for a restful night. Reading after a soothing bath or soak in the hot tub are common habits people enjoy.
*Make your environment conducive to sleeping. It should be dark, comfortable and cool.
*Use a comfortable mattress with pillows to lie down on.
*Designate your bed and bedroom only for sleeping and sexual activity. Watch television or do work and household chores in a separate room entirely.
*Make dinner and finish eating it two to three hours before your scheduled bedtime.
*Exercise regularly, preferably a few hours before bedtime.
*Cigarettes and other tobacco products can impair your sleep if used close to bedtime. Try to avoid nicotine altogether if you can for the best results.
*Avoid all caffeine, including chocolate close to bedtime.
*Do not drink alcohol close to bedtime as it can lead to sleep disruptions later in your overall night’s sleep cycle.
Finally, in addition to these tips, the Better Sleep Council suggests that very possibly, the answer to a simple good night’s sleep for many people is as simple as purchasing a new mattress. It is likely that your body will inform you when it is time for a new mattress. If you are waking up stiff or sore, particularly in the back or neck, it may be time to go shopping for a new bed. This can be a result of a mattress’s normal wear and tear or it may just be that your physical needs have become different. One needs to be aware of the fact that as we all age, our sleeping requirements may change slightly to adapt to certain bodily changes. We should then be sure to select a new mattress accordingly.
Experts suggest that when shopping for a mattress, consumers need to keep in mind four factors: Support, Comfort, and Space. A mattress with proper support will allow the spine to extend and rest in the same way it does when one is standing with good posture. It will also comfortably cradle the body along its various curves. A good mattress as well will provide the sleeper and his or her partner, if applicable, with ample space to move around and reposition oneself.
Individuals shopping for a new mattress are greatly encouraged to try out various models, again, looking for an arrangement of space, comfort and support that works for them. Shoppers should always bring their bed partner along too, to ensure that the new sleeping area would be comfort for both partners.
Finally, the Better Sleep Council provides a clever acronym to help consumers remember what to do when shopping for a new mattress. One can be reminded of the various steps by memorizing the term, “SLEEP”. Broken down, the acronym, which they call the SLEEP Test, is as follows:
Select a mattress.
Lie down in your sleep position.
Evaluate the level of comfort and support
Educate yourself about each selection
Partners should try each mattress together
For more information on how to get a good night’s rest or to find out about various sleeping disorders, or simply to learn about the many variations in mattresses, visit the Better Sleep Council at http://www.bettersleep.org.
Additionally, if the importance of sleep is an issue you would like to discuss with your children, you might visit this link for the Garfield Star Sleeper Campaign: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/starslp. The website provides games, puzzles and fun facts to make learning about this important subject a fun activity for kids of many ages. You, as an adult, may even find it helpful and amusing as well!