Healthy sleep is critical for a healthy life. Although specific sleep needs will vary from person to person, too little over an extended period of time can cause the following consequences:
- Poor concentration during the day
- Increased irritability which can strain relationships
- Poor performance at work
- Substance abuse
Sleep deficiencies can be caused by the arrival of a new baby, time requirements related to school or a new job, substance use, emotional problems, dietary changes, or genetic problems. Although medical treatments are available to help people get to sleep, an increasing number of non-pharmaceutical, alternative methods are being discovered that are often very effective at helping people get more sleep, get better quality sleep, or cope more effectively with a lack of sleep.
Determining Your Sleep Needs
One of the most effective ways to determine how much sleep you require is to allow yourself, for several days, to simply go to sleep when you are tired and to wake up when you naturally arouse. This may require taking several days, or up to a week, off of work, but it can be highly informative. Many people believe they are sleep deprived because they don’t get anywhere near the recommended eight hours a night. The truth is that many people only require four to six hours per night, while some may require significantly more than eight. Taking several days to follow your own biological sleep clock might help you learn something very important about your own sleep needs. Conditions such as anxiety disorders or depression can skew these results, however.
Alternative Methods for Improving Sleep
Before taking sleep medications, carefully consider the following lifestyle issues and sleep-time habits and try making changes where appropriate:
- Give yourself at least an hour of “wind down” time before going to bed
- Avoid screen time (TV, computers, phones) for one to two hours before going to bed
- Avoid large, greasy, or spicy meals before bed (allow two to three hours between eating and sleeping)
- Limit your consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and various medications that can disrupt sleep
- Create a sleep-friendly bedroom (dark, quiet, cool)
- Protect against disruptive noises by using a fan, humidifier, or white noise machine
- Practice relaxation exercises before going to bed
- Make sure to get at least 20 minutes of exercise per day, but not too close to bedtime
- Don’t sleep with a cell phone near your bed
- Maintain consistent sleeping and waking times, even on the weekends
- Avoid afternoon naps
- Ensure that you have a comfortable mattress and pillows
- Don’t use your bed for work, phone calls, or other activities – only sex and sleep
- Try drinking herbal tea 30 minutes prior to bed
Experimenting with different sleep time rituals can be very helpful as well. No two people are alike, but the odds are good that you can discover what is making it difficult to fall asleep, or to stay asleep, without resorting to potentially addictive medications. In some cases drugs are necessary, but only for a short time.
Coping with Poor or Insufficient Sleep
If you are currently suffering from insomnia it might take some time to discover what works to help you get the sleep you need. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help you function better throughout the day. Short, 15-20 minute power naps can be very effective. Try to relax during your lunch break. If you are feeling sleepy throughout the day, short bursts of moderate exercise can revive you. Avoid consuming excessive coffee or energy drinks. Drinking cold water can provide a similar refreshing effect without compromising future sleep or putting other harmful chemicals and sugars into your system.
Many people who suffer from emotional challenges find that sleep is a common casualty. Enlisting the services of a good counselor might help to resolve concerns that preoccupy you and prevent you from getting the sleep you need. Your tiredness might also skew your perspective regarding relationship and other problems. Mounting relational drama and distress simply adds to your anxiety level and potential for insomnia. Don’t avoid counseling. The most effective therapists are specially trained to help you with this exact condition.
24 Hour Sleep Therapy Helpline
The National Sleep Foundation offers considerable resources around the issue of healthy sleep, insomnia, and related disorders. If, after reading this information, you still feel confused about your own sleep problems, please call our toll-free helpline right now. You may benefit from the services of a professional sleep therapist. These specialists go to great lengths to identify exactly what it is that is keeping you from getting the sleep you need, and then work diligently and thoroughly to correct those things.
We’re here to help you get the sleep you need. Call now, any time of day or night, for confidential, personal service and access to the best sleep therapists available.