I’ll admit that I used to be a bad sleeper. When I was sleeping all was good, but I did not prioritize sleep. I would stay up late and wake up early. Some nights, I probably got less than 6 hours of sleep, and on the weekends I got even less (since I was too busy partying in my young 20’s to care if I slept). Had I known the benefits of sleep, I would have made sure to get a better snooze.
The history of sleep goes back centuries and we continue to study its benefits today. Of course I had to research why we still study sleep and according to huffpost.com it is because it is one of the last remaining mysteries in biology <— pretty cool.
During my research, I found out that the average human spends 25 years of their life sleeping. 25 YEARS! That number shocked me.
So why do we sleep?
Sleep is the bodies time to recharge. The brain cannot function properly without it.
Sleep is vital to our health and wellbeing. But most humans aren’t sleeping enough. According to sleephealth.org, about 70% of American adults reported that they get an insufficient amount of sleep at least one night a month, and 11% of Americans reported that they get an insufficient amount of sleep nightly.
So why are we having so much trouble sleeping and how do we fix it?
Blue Light– the same light that is in our smartphones, our TV’s, laptops/computers, energy efficient light bulbs and LED lights. Blue light (one of the many colors of light) actually blocks the production of the natural hormone in our bodies, melatonin. If melatonin isn’t present, it stops us from being tired and sleepy.
–Blue Light Blockers -These are becoming widely available! You can get blue light blocker glasses and sunglasses, blue light blocker screen protectors for devices. Smartphones and devices now have night modes on them which help dim the blue light, and raise the warmer colors to promote relaxations.
–Red Light Therapy– Using red light therapy will help promote relaxation before bedtime. There are many red light devices becoming widely available but do your research before choosing which one!
–Invest in black out curtains– this will help block out any blue light from street lights that may affect your sleep.
Noise– noise is simply distracting. While some noises may soothe some people to sleep (like white noise, rain fall, meditation etc.) some noises can be disrupting (like the noise of a lawn mower, a baby crying, a tv or radio).
–Invest in a sleep eye mask that also doubles to cancel out noise- I got mine from Sharper Image, and I am obsessed. This is great if you live in an apartment where you may have to share walls with some noisy neighbors.
–Talk with your roommates– If you have noisy roommates politely express that you need to sleep. Most of the time, people aren’t aware of how much noise they make, so a little reminder doesn’t hurt.
–Plan for the noisy times– Let’s say that your roommate works from home and starts at 7am, or your neighbor mows his lawn at 7am every Friday. Plan your sleep around it. I know this seems silly to plan your sleep around others… but I know for myself it is necessary. When the garbage truck rolls in at 8 am Tuesdays and Fridays- I know that if I don’t wake up before then, I will be woken up by the garbage truck (which will only cause me to be aggravated instead of waking up calmly).
Stress– Our bodies are not equipped for the amount of stress we are forced to handle. Between finances, relationships, career, school, social media, our environment etc. there is so much that is causing us to stress and worry. Our bodies were made to be able to react to stress quickly (cue the adrenaline) but then as soon as the situation ends the adrenaline would dissipate and all would go back to normal in our bodies. Unfortunately that is not the case any longer. Take for example: something happens at work (you made a mistake or you’re worrying over a promotion). You don’t leave that stress at work and move on with your night. You end up bringing that stress home and you bring the worry into bed with you which in turn causes you to toss and turn at night. The reason behind this is cortisol, our bodies “stress hormone”. Cortisol is needed to regulate your sleep. When you wake, you get a natural rush of cortisol. But at night, your cortisol levels are meant to naturally decrease. Unfortunately, when we are going to bed stressed, our cortisol levels remain high which is causing us to miss out on a good sleep.
–Journal before bed– This will help to get out all of your thoughts. I am telling you to LET THEM SPILL on those pages. This has always been a game changer for me, it’s like free therapy and you don’t have to talk to anyone but your journal.
–Therapy– Seeking out help from a professional expert is always a terrific idea. If something is keeping you awake at night or affecting your life, please seek attention from a professional or medical expert.
–Meditation– Of course there are going to be things happening daily that you won’t be able to shake easily before bed… but meditating for a few minutes before bed will help put you into a relaxing state. Focusing on your breath helps to calm the mind.
–Yoga– If you are restless at night, skip the HIIT workout that will only give you energy. Try doing a gentle yoga flow before bed which will help signal you to calm and relax.
So how many hours of sleep should we be getting?
The Sleep Foundation recommends that a healthy adult should be getting between 7-9 hours of sleep.
I try to aim for at least 10 hours of sleep a night! How much sleep are your getting?!