You can’t be your best self when you’re dragging from a lack of adequate sleep. Good, restful shut-eye is the secret ingredient for a productive day; yet, many Americans report that they wake up tired even after a full night’s rest.
According to YouGov.Com:
“Only 15% of Americans report not waking up even one day a week feeling tired and poorly rested, while 40% say that they wake up once, twice or three times a week feeling poorly rested. 38% say that they’re poorly rested four or more days a week.”
That means that only three out of every twenty people wake up feeling fresh every day of the week! Sleep deprivation can throw off your entire day leaving you groggy and exhausted. Does the answer lie in the buzz that comes from your morning coffee regimen or in that promised set of wings at the bottom of your energy drink? No, better sleep habits are the remedy to your weekday woes and one way we can create a foundation of balance amidst the chaos of our lives.
Here are tips to help you slay the three, most common sleep disruptors:
Did you know that Americans spend ten hours a day in front of a screen? Between computers, tablets, cell phones, and laptops, we are constantly alert, constantly logged on, and constantly connected. Portable electronics have changed the way we do everything- we are expected to be available at any time for work or school, hours of social interactions and entertainment take place on our smartphones and iPads, and there’s pretty much an app for everything. Most people even sleep with their cell phone on the nightstand beside them!
This close, personal relationship we have with our electronics isn’t just affecting how we socialize and do business, it can actually be hindering your sleep from both a behavioral and scientific perspective.
First of all, playing on your cell phone or checking your email before bed tells your brain to stay awake and alert. Like the rest of your muscles, your brain needs a chance to unwind after a long day of active use. Reading updates on Facebook or surfing through articles on Flipboard might feel like a low-energy activity, but you’re essentially telling your brain to stay engaged which can keep you from falling asleep and decrease the duration of that deep, lovely REM cycle.
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Secondly, the blue light emitted from all of your devices hurts your sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring chemical in your body that helps you fall asleep and regulates your circadian rhythms so that you wake-up refreshed.
We (and the folks at The Sleep Foundation) recommend at least a half hour of Zero Screen Time before bed. Yes, this includes phones, computers, and even television. Make your bedroom a screen-free zone to help your brain wind down and protect the quality of your sleep.
Eating is hard work! (At least, for our bodies). Simply put, digestion is a heavily involved process; the digestion system processes food through several organs breaking it down and sorting out nutrients for use throughout your body. Eating immediately before you go to bed is basically giving your body work to do when it should be preparing for rest.
And, while having a glass of wine before bed might help you nod off to sleep, it isn’t the answer you may have been seeking. Ultimately, the sleep you have is less restful, and you may even wake up several times throughout the night.
Time Magazine explains that drinking alcohol or eating before bed puts your brain in a chemical tug-of-war with itself. When you sleep, your brain enters into “delta activity mode” where it can process the events of the day and consolidate memories in a deep, restorative sleep. When your brain is instructing your body to process food and drink, you’re in “alpha activity mode”…though it’s not a strenuous state, it’s still quite active. With both delta and alpha activity running together, your brain can’t achieve the deep sleep it requires. In turn, you wake up feeling tired and groggy.
A bedtime routine is highly beneficial and can really help you to achieve the peaceful night’s sleep your body is longing for. Take the half hour of “No Screen Time” we referenced above to prep your mind and body for rest. Have a cup of Sleepy-time tea, wash your face, read a book- whatever you need to truly unwind before getting into bed. This way, by the time you turn off the lights, your brain is calm, and your body is ready to fall asleep.
To regulate your circadian rhythms which work alongside your internal clock, it’s important to go to sleep around the same time each night. This will help to cue your brain that it’s time to be sleepy, and, in the morning, this same system will let your body know when it’s time to wake up. If you are constantly alternating your bedtimes, your body doesn’t learn when to tell you that you’re tired or how to achieve enough sleep to feel rested.
While spending more hours of your life asleep don’t mesh with the American way of thinking, a good night’s sleep is the easiest way to get a jump start on tomorrow. Break your bad habits and ensure that you wake up each morning rested, refreshed, and ready for the day ahead of you.