Sleep is more closely tied to overall health than most people realize. We all feel bad when we don’t sleep, but that tired feeling is just the tip of the health iceberg. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 48 percent of Americans have occasional sleeplessness; 22 percent experience it most nights. Occasional sleeplessness isn’t usually harmful, but chronic lack of 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep is highly likely to have a negative impact on your health, including:
- Chronic loss of sleep can lead to weight gain
- People who sleep less than 7 hours a night are at increased risk for many chronic diseases
- Lack of sleep may increase mood challenges and nervousness. Substance abuse is increased in people who chronically don’t get enough sleep.
- People who don’t sleep well are 2 to 4 times more likely to have an on the job accident or be in a motor vehicle accident than those who are good sleepers
- Work suffers in those who don’t sleep well: productivity drops, concentration suffers, and there is likely an increase in missed work
Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
Use Good Sleep Hygiene. It is best to go to bed and get up at approximately the same time every day. Try to schedule at least 30 minutes (preferably an hour) to wind down before you go to sleep by reading a book or sitting quietly. Dim the overhead lights and turn off all your electronics, including the TV, computer, and cellphone at least an hour before you go to sleep.
Decaffeinate. Steer clear of caffeine at least six hours before bed. Remember that chocolate and even decaffeinated coffee contains a small amount of caffeine and may keep you awake if you are sensitive. Look for herbal caffeine-free teas if you like a warm beverage before bed.
Avoid Alcohol. While alcohol can make you feel tired and people use it to fall asleep, it often causes nighttime wakening. Alcohol also increases bathroom trips – which can also wake you up. Try to stop drinking at least three hours before you go to bed.
Exercise. Your mind will find it easier to relax when your body is tired. Any exercise will help, but many people report that hard exercise is the best for improving sleep.
Natural Support for Good Sleep. There are a variety of nutritional and herbal options to support sleep:
- Calcium and Magnesium are two minerals needed by the body. They can help promote a calm and relaxed brain and body. People who awaken frequently during the night may benefit from taking a calcium and magnesium supplement about an hour before going to sleep.
- Chamomile is an herb that has been used for thousands of years to help promote calmness. It has been studied in people with nervousness and can help improve sleep, especially falling asleep.
- L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. It helps to calm the brain and help you sleep.
- Valerian is an herbal root that traditionally has been used for calming and relaxation. It helps calm the brain and helps you to feel tired.
Getting enough sleep is very important to your health. Work on your sleep hygiene, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and reach for some natural support when you need it.