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Are you getting enough sleep?

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How to get more sleep

Everyone knows the feeling of being too tired at the gym; you feel sluggish, can’t stop yawning, and ultimately cannot perform our best.  The most obvious cause for this is lack of sleep.  In 2014 a study by the CDC found that on average, 30-40% of adults suffered from short sleep duration (under 7 hours a night).  Another culprit is lack of restful sleep; if the lights are out but you are tossing and turning for hours or wake up multiple times a night, even 7 hours in bed does not make for a full restful sleep.  Many may be tempted to jump to over the counter sleeping aids in order to fix this lack of restful sleep but these can be doing more harm than good.  A habit of sleeping with the use of an over-the-counter aid can alter our sleeping patterns such that the brain and hormone rebalance that occurs during sleep cannot fully occur.  Prolonged use can cause hangover-like effects and will also reduce in effectiveness over time (The Mayo Clinic).  So where do we start?

  1. Turn out the light

Some people may be used to having a night light or perhaps there is a pesky street lamp across the way, but complete darkness can be key to restful sleep.  Even when our eyes are closed they can still sense subtle changes in light even when we consciously cannot.  This can throw off circadian rhythms as well as urge the body to resume wakefulness if you wake up regularly in the middle of the night.

  1. Put away the screens (and the snacks)

Most humans have a habit of checking their phones, social media, emails, etc. before they fall asleep but this can be a very bad habit for the brain, while they may seem like a relaxing end to the day, the onslaught of information can churn wheels in our brain that will not stop for hours.  This churning of information can result in hours of lost sleep.  If you wake up in the middle of the night, most of us are tempted to check the time or even check an email or two but this will only prolong our wakefulness

  1. Get on Schedule

This can be very difficult to many but having a set bed time can help out brains to wind down.  In the same way having a schedule can keep your 3-year-old from getting cranky, it can help you too.

  1. Herbal teas

A cup of herbal, non-caffeinated, tea before bed is a technique that has been used for centuries.  Ingredients such as chamomile, valerian root, lavender, lemon balm, and peppermint are all known to aid in sleep and finding a sleepy-time tea that works for you can be more helpful than most over-the-counter medications (nosleeplessnights.com).

  1. Melatonin

One of the most common aids we hear about these days in Melatonin.  This is a supplement to the natural melatonin that our body produces and can be found in small amounts in the foods we eat, such as some grains, meats, and vegetables (WebbMD).  This hormone is known to increase in the evening and will remain at high levels through sleeping hours and increasing levels with a low dose supplement for both short and long-term has been shown to help improve sleep cycles.