By Laurie Larson, Contributing author, freelance health, and lifestyle writer
Many people think of sleep as something you do just so you aren’t tired the next day. However, research has shown time and again that adults require seven-plus hours of sleep each night to benefits from the mental and physical improvements sleep provides. Studies and surveys also show that people increasingly are getting less sleep and sleep deprivation is becoming a serious, nationwide issue. Here is how to fix your sleeping mistakes
The Harm of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is the result of a lack of sleep or building a sleep debt. This can occur for several reasons such as acute or chronic insomnia, frequent sleep disruption, restless leg syndrome, or even personal behaviors such as partying all night and working long hours.
Regardless of how you experience sleep deprivation the effect on your body can be disastrous. Sleep is the body’s natural way of repairing and maintaining the body’s systems. During different times of the night—your sleep cycles—the mind will trigger chemicals and hormones in your body to relax and repair damaged tissue and inflammations. At the same time, your mind will process and organize your emotions, thoughts, memories, and creativity. You can imagine what happens if your mind can barely start or it stops midway through these processes.
The result of neglecting your sleep can result in impaired judgment, fatigue, moodiness, irregular metabolism, inability to control balance, and a whole host of other mental and physical problems. This can occur with losing as much as just an hour or two of sleep in a night.
While there are a lot of causes related to sleep deprivation from genetic to behavioral, the good news is that learning how to improve your sleep can also help you improve underlying conditions such as anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.
In fact, it is likely that your sleep is a result of easily-remedied sleeping mistakes you are making during the day. We’ll walk you through the sleeping mistakes you’re likely making and help you repair your wrongs for the sake of your sleep health.
#1 Slacking on Sleep Quantity
Two things affect whether you are getting adequate sleep you need; those are sleep quantity and sleep quality.
One misunderstanding for people who don’t get in the right amount of sleep quantity is that they take the statement, “Everyone’s sleep needs are different,” to heart. Yes, while one person might need ten hours of sleep per night, another may be able to function on six or seven. However, that does not mean you can train your body to sleep less and get the same benefits as someone who sleeps longer.
While newborn to teenager’s sleep needs decrease from about sixteen hours a day to eight, for adults the recommendation is seven to nine hours of sleep. Your sleep quantity needs vary depending on how quickly your body can move through sleep-cycles as well as how few disruptions affect you while sleeping. So, while you think you can make it on four hours of sleep each night, you will likely see the symptoms of sleep deprivation within a day or two.
#2 Neglecting Healthy Lifestyle Habits
What many people don’t realize is that it is what you do during the day that affects how well you sleep at night. And I am not just talking about going to a late-night show and waking up early. Our lifestyle habits have one of the biggest impacts on our sleep habits.
Two ways to ensure that you will not be plagued with a lack of quality sleep are to eat healthy consistently and exercise regularly.
Eating healthy is as much about decreasing high-fat foods as it is understanding how food keeps you awake or disrupted at night. For example, high sugar foods, caffeine, and high-fat foods either trigger your metabolism and energy levels which make it difficult to sleep, or they can upset your stomach, or require more late-night trips to the bathroom. In addition, diets high in salt can lead to diet-induced heartburn which can also lead to sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and insomnia.
In addition to diet, exercise can provide several benefits to improved sleep. Exercise increases your body temperature, in return, the decrease in body temperature has been linked to sleepiness. Exercise is also used to help people who suffer from anxiety and depression by decreasing stress and promoting a positive mindset. The calming effect of exercise helps to reduce the minds stressors enabling the body and mind to fall asleep quicker and reducing the effect of insomnia.
#3 Setting Up the Wrong Sleep Environment
Have you ever considered that your sleep is affected by the environment you sleep in? This isn’t even considering falling asleep with the television. A better sleep environment requires adapting your bedroom to produce optimal sleep.
Start by purchasing blackout curtains, implementing the use of calming essential oils and even painting your walls to a soft warmer color to make a difference. Creating a positive sleep environment will help ease you into bed and reduce anxiety by creating a relaxing place to fall asleep.
Also, be sure to pay attention to the surface you sleep on. Many people neglect the quality of their mattress and bedding, but you spend one-third of your life there so it’s worth investing in a higher quality for better sleep.
#4 Ignoring Your Body
Lastly, one of the biggest sleeping mistakes you may be making that is preventing you from quality sleep is ignoring your body. Your body is designed to let you know when there is a problem. So, if you wake up with a sore back, there is a reason for it. If your sleep is disrupted by headaches, heartburn, or snoring, your body is telling you, “Hey, I need your attention!”
Unfortunately, Americans are prone to ignoring their body’s warnings and avoiding the doctor as much as they can. Now, while you might not need to go to the doctor to get a good night’s rest, it would probably do you good to try and address the issue. Heartburn might mean you are eating the wrong food before bed, a headache could mean dehydration, and lower back pain could mean you are sleeping on the wrong type of mattress.
Your sleep is important to your overall mental and physical health. By fix your sleeping mistakes and understanding how your lifestyle, behavior, and sleep environment affect your night you are on your way to a better night’s sleep and a higher quality of life.
Laurie is a freelance writer based on the east coast. She enjoys writing about home, health, and lifestyle topics to help others make the most out of their lives.
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