Whether anecdotal or through proven scientific research, it’s clear we need good sleep, and there are lots of great way you can improve your sleep.
Think about how many times you’ve heard someone say they’re groggy in the daytime and can’t function properly because they couldn’t get to sleep. Or recall the times where you might have had to stay up late or get up earlier than usual, and how you felt — it’s likely that you were more sluggish than usual, but that’s just the tip of the negative effects of inadequate sleep.
Sleep disruption can occur for a host of reasons, but the adverse outcomes are well known.
The science behind sleep disruption
A peer-reviewed study from 2017 by university and National Health Service researchers in London found that sleep deprivation could lead to slower reaction times and vascular responses to exercise among otherwise health university students. The study found generally that lack of sleep might not have the same harm to cognitive ability for these young students.
But a 2015 study, also peer-reviewed, from medical and university researchers in the Netherlands, concluded that sleep disruption can lead to mental health changes including mood swings, suggesting that it can impact both the body and mind in certain instances.
Why getting a good night’s sleep is important
The scientific research along highlights why it’s so crucial that we all get a good night’s sleep.
Some people need less sleep than others; for example, the late former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was said to survive on four hours’ sleep every night and she led her country for more than a decade without any noticeable cognitive or physical impairment. But she, and people like her, are the exception to the rule and most people need many more hours of sleep.
It is generally accepted that most healthy men and women need about eight hours of sleep each night in order to gain the associated benefits and fend off any negative outcomes.
Lack of sleep can lead to long-term problems that include weight gain, slowed cognitive abilities, and other adverse mental and physical health issues. These will have a broad impact on your life far beyond the bedroom and therefore you should take all possible steps to prevent them.
If you are unable to get adequate sleep, you run the risk of performing more poorly at work, having less energy for social gatherings, and generally living in an unhealthier condition than if you get adequate sleep. The knock-on consequences can be incredibly wide-ranging, putting you in danger of losing your job, damaging personal relationships, and harming your health.
The causes of sleep deprivation
There can be many causes behind the reason why you’re not getting enough sleep, and it’s important to know some of the leading ones so that you can detect them.
For some people, mental health issues both minor and major can be a leading trigger for lack of sleep. If you are experiencing significant stress or depression, for example, you might struggle to get the recommended eight hours of sleep every night that you need to stay healthy.
Physical issues have also been associated with an inability to get a good night’s sleep. If you’re overweight you might develop problems sleeping soundly for eight hours. Or if you have sleep apnea you will typically awake several times throughout the evening. Even if you think you have been in bed for eight hours, this is still broken sleep and will be as beneficial to you.
Thankfully, it’s fairly obvious for us to know when our bodies aren’t getting enough sleep because they will tell us this fact. You’ll feel sluggish and tired and if you’re not living at your full capacity, and that’s the time at which you can take steps to develop a better sleeping regime.
How to develop a healthy sleep routine
Many people don’t realize that simple lifestyle routines are to blame for their inability to get enough sleep, and there are a few simple and zero-cost ways to fix this problem.
- Develop a strict sleep schedule
One way is to give yourself a strict schedule for your bedtime, making sure you’re in bed by the same time each night and sticking to that timeline as best you can. This will help your body adapt to the schedule and make it easier to sleep better the longer this continues.
- Don’t use your electronic devices at bedtime
It’s also believed that our electronic devices with their blue screens actually can make it harder to get to sleep if we use them late at night. Although many people use their iPhones and other devices in bed to read or play games or watch movies, try to avoid this. If you set aside your device earlier in the night, you might find it easier to get a proper night’s sleep.
- Get regular exercise
Regular exercise can also be a simple way to secure a healthy sleep routine, as it will keep you in good physical condition and also help to tire you out before you go to bed.
- Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol near bedtime
Also try to avoid consuming too much caffeine or alcohol close to your planned sleep time, because these substances are known to disrupt the body’s ability to sleep soundly.
- Consider surgery or other interventions for more serious sleep problems
For more serious physical ailments that are causing your poor sleep, you might need to take additional steps. In the case of overweight people who are struggling with sleep deprivation, you could consider a new exercise program that helps to reduce your weight and hopefully improve your sleep. Or in more severe cases, such as intense sleep apnea, surgery might be required as a last resort if it’s the only thing that will help you get a decent night’s sleep.
- Consult a medical professional about your sleep problems
And if mental health issues such as depression or stress or anxiety are preventing you from sleeping properly, consider scheduling a meeting with a licensed medical professional such as a therapist. They can work with you to find out what is causing the issue and they will also be able to recommend a course ahead that will help you to tackle whatever is hindering your sleep.
Rest assured that regardless of whatever the problem is that’s causing your poor sleep, it can be fixed with a little work, and hopefully soon enough you’ll be sleeping soundly.