If you’re having trouble getting good sleep, you’re not alone. Studies tell us that people all over the country — and beyond — report getting insufficient sleep. About 1 in 3 of us are missing out on the shuteye that we need, and that’s terrible news. Sleep is vital to our health and wellbeing: it affects everything from our moods to our physical condition. But how can you change your sleep habits for the better? Fortunately, it might be an easier task than you think.
Improving your sleep, including how much of it you get and the quality of that sleep, is a great investment to make. That’s because there are a ton of health benefits to getting great sleep — and, on the flip side, a ton of consequences that come with sleep deprivation.
Our bodies need rest, and so do our minds. Anyone who has ever woken up after a great night’s sleep knows that good sleep can make us feel refreshed and healthy. It’s not just an illusion, either: with that elevated mood comes a host of sleep-related benefits, from a more effective memory to a (possibly) longer lifespan.
Go without sleep, and you lose these benefits — and start dealing with real problems. Sleep deprivation makes us irritable, of course, but it can also make us less healthy and more susceptible to diseases. When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re physically tired, less productive at work, and less able to cope with the mental and physical challenges of your day.
Mastering Your Sleep Cycle
It’s clear that getting good sleep is crucial to your health and overall wellbeing — but what can you do about it?
In our hectic world, establishing good sleep patterns can feel impossible. But if you’re willing to make a real commitment, you should find that getting great sleep is not as difficult as it seems.
The most important thing you can do in order to get a handle on your sleep schedule is to recognize it as precisely those things — a cycle and a schedule. Our sleep patterns — and, in fact, the sleep patterns of many animals — stem from what is called a “circadian rhythm.” This biological rhythm takes its cues from our planet’s day-night cycle. It’s why we tend to feel tired and awake at the same times every day. By respecting that cycle and establishing a regular schedule that involves going to bed and waking up at the same times every day, we can make our sleep cycle work for us. There are plenty of tools around to help you do this, including apps that help you track and attempt to move your sleep cycle.
Your lifestyle matters, too: healthy eating and regular exercise can help you sleep better, as can avoiding intoxicating substances like alcohol (especially right before bed). Creating a great sleep environment can help, too: sleep in a comfortable, dark place that is set apart — both literally and psychologically — from your work and play spaces.
Medical Problems and Sleep
If you’ve tried everything and can’t seem to improve your sleep, don’t hesitate to speak to a medical professional. Sleep is a complex thing, and there are disorders and health problems that could be making it more difficult for you to get the rest you need.
You could have a sleep disorder and not know it. For instance, sleep apnea is widely undiagnosed. Per the experts at SoClean — a company that makes a cleaner for CPAP, itself a popular treatment for sleep apnea — as many as 80% of sleep apnea sufferers may be undiagnosed.
If you think you may have a sleep disorder — or even if you’re just looking for more ways to get better sleep — speak to your doctor. In the meantime, take the steps laid out above to take control of your sleep patterns as much as possible under the circumstances. Your body and mind will thank you.