About 33% of Americans experience insomnia on a regular basis, with 17% of the population claiming that insomnia is a major problem in their lives.
According to the CDC not getting enough sleep is associated with an increased risk for a few chronic conditions such as:
Individuals that report sleeping less than 6 hours per night are 1.7 times as likely, and those that report sleeping less than 5 hours per night are 2.5 times more likely to have diabetes than individuals that obtain 7 hours of sleep.
The risk of a fatal heart attack increases 45% in individuals who chronically sleep 5 hours per night or less.
Getting too little sleep can increase your appetite and reduce your level of satiety, causing you to crave carbohydrates and sugary foods. Overtime, indulging in these cravings or overeating, in general, can wreak havoc on your insulin and blood sugar levels, as well as your body weight.
Sleep functions as an antioxidant for the brain: free radicals that can damage neurons are removed as you snooze. Most people can tolerate a few days without sleep and fully recover. However, chronic sleep deprivation appears to accelerate aging of the brain, causes neuronal damage, and leads to night time elevations in the stress hormone cortisol.
Other causes of insufficient sleep include lifestyle (like inconsistent bedtimes and using technology late at night) and occupational factors (like shift work or long work hours). In addition, some medical conditions, medications, and sleep disorders like sleep apnea affect how long and how well you sleep.
Some suggestions I use with my clients.
Daily exercise is known to improve general wellbeing and promote improvement in sleep quality. Exercise should take place in the morning or early evening, not right before bedtime and should be of moderate intensity.
Avoid stimulants, especially caffeine. The average American consumes 150 to 225 mg of caffeine per day, roughly the amount of caffeine in one to two cups of coffee. Although most people can handle this amount, there is a huge variation in the rate at which different people detoxify stimulants such as caffeine.
There are many recreational drugs, prescription and nonprescription drugs that can interfere with sleep such as: beta blockers, marijuana, oral contraceptives, thyroid preparations.
Keep your bedroom comfortable. Ideally, your bedroom should be between 60 to 67 degrees. Free from noise that can disturb you and free from any light.
Avoid electronics before bed. Reading on an electronic device can be detrimental because the light that emanates from tablets, laptops, etc. can keep you awake.
Develop a bedtime routine. Use the hour before you go to sleep to do something calming like reading a book and have a cup of caffeine free tea (such as chamomile or valerian). Maybe at least three hours before going to bed do some light stretching or meditation.
The above suggestions should get you started with sleeping better at night and allow you to be more present in your life.
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Jennifer Whirlow, MNT is a Holistic Health Coach who helps people with crazy schedules find their healthiest selves by working with them to find what works best for them. Learn more at www.My-Holistic_Life.com