The consensus among health care experts is that adults, regardless of age, need seven or more hours of sleep in each 24-hour period to achieve their best health.
But few people seem to get that much. Data from the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System reveals that between 28% and 44% of adults in the U.S. report short sleep duration - defined as less than seven hours nightly - on a regular basis.
According to the Sleep Foundation, a chronic lack of sleep is associated with a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, mental health problems, and premature death. The more immediate effects of short sleep duration include memory problems, poor concentration, and emotional distress.
Research shows that people who have developed a tolerance to short sleep duration may be unaware that they are experiencing these problems. If you think you’re facing short sleep duration on a regular basis, follow these tips for a better night’s sleep:
Put yourself on a schedule
Pay attention to when you go to sleep and when you wake up - try to keep the times consistent, even on weekends. If you plan on making a pretty big change, adjust your sleep and wake times by 15 minutes every few days to ease into the new schedule. Be sure your goal times are realistic, or you may not be able to stick to your new routine.
Tweak your environment
Attend to four of your five senses to improve your sleep environment:
- Sight: Keep it as dark as possible. To prevent the morning sunrise from infringing on your slumber, invest in some good light-blocking curtains or shades.
- Hearing: The quieter the better. If white noise or music helps you drift off, keep the volume as low as possible.
- Smell: Try aromatherapy. The scents of lavender, rose, and chamomile have all been shown to promote relaxation.
- Touch: Your bedding needs to be very comfortable. This may take some experimentation, so find mattress companies that offer trial periods. Don’t forget your comfy pillow, sheets, and blankets. Room temperature also matters - studies show that adults sleep best somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nix the electronics
Keep electronics, such as TVs, phones, and computers, out of your bedroom. Using these devices stimulates your brain, when the goal is to relax it.
Many of these devices also emit blue light, which interferes with the natural production of melatonin - your brain’s sleep hormone.
Experts say that taking electronics out of the bedroom entirely helps you avoid temptation, because you are less likely to leave your bedroom to access them.
Reading in bed is fine, as long as you use a bedside lamp or regular book light. Most e-readers that also function as tablets can still emit some blue light, although it may be filtered. Check the user guide on your e-reader to be sure.
Watch what you eat
Avoid alcoholic beverages, caffeine, and large meals within three hours of your bedtime. Alcohol may seem relaxing, but it has a rebound stimulant effect. Any caffeinated drink, such as coffee and soda, will want to keep your brain up for a few more hours … at least.
Large meals can be difficult to digest. It has been shown, however, that a light snack containing both carbohydrates and protein can help promote good sleep. Try cheese and crackers, a cup of yogurt, or a piece of fruit with nut butter.
Exercise during the day
Get some exercise! Studies show that there is no ideal “one-size-fits-all” time to exercise to promote good sleep - people’s internal rhythms differ greatly. But in general, you should aim to finish any moderate- or high-intensity workouts about two hours before the start of your bedtime routine.
Some light stretching or meditative movements (such as easy yoga poses) can be beneficial, though.
Reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep! For more information, visit:
- Sleep Foundation (sleepfoundation.org)
- AASM Sleep Education (sleepeducation.org)
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (nccih.nih.gov)
At Erickson Senior Living, we are dedicated to providing our residents with the utmost care. To learn more about how our communities can support your health and wellness, discover the Erickson Difference.