If you always feel tired in your day-to-day and struggle to get sound sleep, you’re not alone. As many as 68% of Americans report experiencing trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least once a week.
When you’re getting enough sleep and feeling your best, you probably don’t think twice about your nightly routine. It’s not until you’re struggling to catch some Zzz’s that you begin to reevaluate your bedtime habits. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve your night’s sleep and feel more rested in your waking hours.
In this article, we’ll cover 15 science-backed sleep tips to get better rest night after night.
Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation
It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “I’m so tired” or “I didn’t get enough sleep last night” on a regular day. We hear these phrases so often that we begin to think nothing of them; however, sleep deprivation is nothing to overlook. Your body and brain need sleep to function, and habitually getting less than 7 hours of sleep can lead to physical and mental health issues later on down the line.
In addition to feeling tired and grumpy, there are serious short-term and long-term risks that come with accruing a large sleep debt.
In the short term, a lack of sleep can cause:
- Fatigue: It goes without being said that not getting enough sleep can cause you to feel tired. Making a habit of skipping out on necessary sleep can cause recurring daytime fatigue, affecting your mood and making it harder to live your happiest life.
- Mood swings: When you don’t get enough sleep, your mood can be easily impacted, resulting in mood swings.
- Irritability: Sleepiness can make us more impatient and unhappy.
- Depression: Lack of sleep puts you at a higher risk of experiencing depressed moods.
- Forgetfulness: When you sleep, pathways form between the neurons in your brain, helping you retain new information. When you have trouble sleeping, it can cause you to become more and more forgetful.
- Grogginess: When your brain is deprived of sleep, your reaction times and judgment are impaired. This puts you at more risk of accidents— from car accidents to tripping and falling. Every year, there are over 6,000 fatal car crashes as a result of drowsy driving.
- Laziness: Being tired and groggy can kill your motivation, whether it be to pursue certain hobbies or meet the necessary deadlines. Feeling foggy doesn’t necessarily put you in the mood to get up and get going.
- Clumsiness: When your reaction times are impaired, you’re more prone to clumsiness.
- Difficulty concentrating: It’s challenging to learn new concepts when your brain can’t properly absorb and store new information.
- Hunger: Sleep problems impact your brain’s ability to produce hormones as it should. When you’re tired, you produce higher levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone, and less leptin, an appetite-control hormone. As a result, you’re more likely to experience cravings for sweet, salty, and starchy foods. Indulging those cravings puts you at a higher risk of weight gain and obesity.
Long-term consequences of sleep deprivation include:
- Weakened immune system: Sleep deprivation affects your ability to fight off the flu, colds, and other illnesses— increasing your risk of frequently feeling under the weather.
- Increased risk of heart disease: The “Whitehall II Study” conducted in 2007 looked at how a lack of sleep can impact your mortality. During this study, researchers had 10,000 participants cut their sleep back by only two hours every night. The results showed participants had increased their risk of death from all causes, but specifically, doubled their risk of death from heart disease.
- Premature aging: When you’re sleep-deprived, your body produces increased amounts of cortisol, a stress hormone, and fewer amounts of human growth hormone, which keeps your skin looking youthful. Additionally, cortisol breaks down collagen, which leaves your skin looking dull and aged.
- Obesity: It’s not uncommon for sleep-deprived individuals to gain weight and become obese after months, or sometimes years, of inadequate sleep due to the overproduction of hunger hormones and sugar cravings.
- Hypertension: As we mentioned prior, sleep deprivation leads to the overproduction of cortisol, a stress hormone. As time passes, your body’s inability to regulate the excess stress hormones can lead to hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure. Hypertension puts you at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and death.
- Diabetes: Your blood sugar levels are directly correlated to your quality and quantity of sleep. When you’re not getting an adequate amount of sleep, your blood sugar levels rise and stay elevated, which can lead to diabetic issues.
1. Establish a Bedtime Routine & Stick With It
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every single day, even on weekends, is the best way to reinforce your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
Struggling to fall asleep at the same time every night? Research shows developing a sleep schedule can lead to more restorative rest. Most of us use an alarm clock in the morning, so we aren’t late to start our day. But have you considered setting the alarm in the evening to signal when it’s time for bed? By doing this, you create a consistent, sleep-promoting routine.
Developing a regular bedtime routine readies your mind and body for rest and sets the tone that it’s time to put other distractions aside and hit the hay.
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