Make Sleep a Priority in the New Year
Do you wake up feeling well-rested and refreshed? If not, you are not alone.
According to a recent survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), 85% of U.S. adults do not get the recommended seven hours or more of sleep every night. After a challenging and stressful year, the New Year provides us all with the opportunity to refocus on the importance of making healthy sleep a priority.
Regularly sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and mental distress. Sleep can make us healthier, happier, and even smarter! Getting the right amount of sleep is conducive to learning, memory recall, creativity, and cognitive function. Despite evidence showing the importance of adequate sleep, it often can take a back seat to other behaviors we find important. Unfortunately, a vast majority (68%) of U.S. adults lose sleep due to drinking alcohol past bedtime, binge-watching a TV show playing video games or streaming video.
With a change in daily routines, the COVID-19 pandemic is also disrupting sleep for Americans. According to the survey, one in five Americans (22%) are sleeping worse due to the pandemic, and 19% are getting less nightly sleep.
Getting a good night’s sleep can be really tough during these unsettling times, especially if you’re not as active as you were before. If you find yourself tossing and turning, struggling to fall asleep each night there are some ways that you can get your sleep habits back on track.
Making a plan and sticking to it is one of the best ways to start falling asleep better every night. Setting an alarm each morning and getting up at the same time every day helps your body fall into a rhythm, which then goes for bedtime as well. Make sure to have a bedtime routine you stick to at the same time every night. In your bedtime routine be sure to give yourself at least an hour of wind-down time that includes putting away digital devices, relaxing, dimming the lights, reading a book, and drinking water or tea. By sticking to a routine, you will tell your brain it is bedtime. Also, make sure your room is comfortable, cool, and dark which makes it easier to sleep.
During the quarantine, it can be so tempting to stay in bed all day, even making it the place where you do all your work. When you get up in the morning, try to stay up and out of bed throughout the day. It’s good to distinguish where you are awake and where you sleep if you can even avoid your whole bedroom. If you are doing work in bed, it becomes much harder to sleep come bedtime because that’s where you have been stressing during the day. It’s also a good idea to avoid napping, although you may feel like curling up to recharge after noon, this will stop you from being sleepy during your normal bedtime.
Take the opportunity to get outdoors because there are so many benefits. According to the Sleep Foundation, natural light actually stops the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. This helps your body feel more awake naturally because melatonin won’t be produced while you’re outside. This is also a reason that screen use should be limited during your bedtime because it’s an unnatural light that can mess with your melatonin production. Another great benefit of going outdoors is to get physical activity. If you don’t have the ability to go outside it can be just as beneficial to get in some home workouts, a video of some easy exercises you can try that do not require any equipment can be found here.