Sleep deprivation is a huge health concern. Operating without enough of it can be as detrimental to your performance as drugs or alcohol. In the short term, it causes irritability, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. Over the long term, it can lead to heart attack, stroke, and psychiatric disorders. Sixty-eight percent of Americans report having trouble falling asleep at least one night a week, and 27 percent of those questioned report falling asleep or staying asleep is a nightly problem. What can we do about it?
People have difficulty falling asleep for a variety of reasons. Americans are working longer each week than ever before. They have longer commutes, and the domestic responsibilities of life are getting shifted to the evening hours. The availability of electric light means we can extend our daylight well into the nighttime. More and more of us are spending our evenings on electronic devices, and that light may interfere with the normal circadian rhythms of the human body.
Reevaluate your relationship with sleep. Don’t steal from your sleeping hours to make up for lost waking ones. We tell ourselves that we don’t need as much sleep and that we can make it up later. But research indicates that getting a full night’s rest actually makes us more productive. Adults perform better on the job, and children do better in school if they’re getting the recommended eight hours of sleep. Embrace the restorative powers it offers by elevating its importance on the family radar. Eliminate caffeinated beverages and sugary snacks from your afternoon and evening menu. Consider instituting family rituals such as meditation or prayer time. Bedtime stories can help settle a small child, and older children may enjoy being allowed to read in bed for an hour before lights out. It’s also a good idea to unplug electronic devices at a set hour each night, maybe just before your family sits down to dinner.
Create the Right Environment
Falling asleep in front of the television isn’t conducive to a great night’s rest. Create a welcoming nest you can curl up in each night. Invest in room-darkening blinds or curtains and comfortable bedding. You can improve your sleep quality by changing your wall color and eliminating clutter from your room. Most people fall asleep easier in a cool room rather than a warm one, so set the thermostat appropriately. If your children share bedrooms, account for a little bit of bedtime talk time in your sleep schedule. Figure on at least 10 or 15 minutes of cross-talk after you’ve put them to bed at night, and be consistent about putting them down at the same time. Purchasing a white noise machine can be helpful in creating an atmosphere conducive to sleep. Most kids who share rooms become deep sleepers and learn how not to wake their slumbering neighbor in the next bed.
Get a Good Start
Waking to the sound of a shrieking alarm clock has to be one of the worst ways to start your day. Consider investing in a clock that wakes you with natural full spectrum light, instead. Thousands of years of evolution have trained us to sleep when it’s dark and wake up when the sun shines. These clocks replicate that effect by gradually increasing the light in your room, working with your natural sleep cycle to help you rest, and rise, better.
Any number of thing can rob you of sleep. Professional and personal stress can linger in your mind and keep you awake. A poor diet can have you hopped up when you need to wind down. Uncomfortable, over-lit, or loud surroundings can steal your dream time. Fight back by practicing good sleep hygiene. Prioritize the sleep schedule. Make sure family activities support the importance of it in your family home and lifestyle. Set up bedrooms to be more conducive to getting a full night’s rest. You’ll be surprised how much better everyone feels in the morning.
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Author New Jersey Midwifery