8 Ways to Deal with Insomnia and Form Better Sleeping Habits
Insomnia is habitual sleeplessness or the inability to sleep that isn’t explained by a medical condition (i.e. sleep apnea). It includes your habits or schedule causing you to not get enough sleep or your inability to sleep when you try to do so.
How Sacrificing Sleep Can Affect Your Quality of Life
Our work schedules and technology we use create a culture where we are frequently plugged in and connected, making it hard to unwind at the end of the day. We fill up our limited free time with additional tasks, often sacrificing our sleep to do it. While tolerable in the short term, this can lead to long term, negative effects on our health and impact quality of life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Anything less is considered “insufficient sleep”. Insufficient sleep affects:
- Physical Health: Poor sleep habits have been linked to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
- Job Performance: Lack of sleep can also lead to poor mathematical capacity, logical reasoning, concentration, memory, and ability to learn.
- Mental Health: Poor sleep affects your ability to handle stress and anxiety, and it can cause the feeling of being “mentally exhausted.”
Tips for Creating Better Sleep Habits
- Set aside eight hours for “sleep potential,” that is quiet and technology-free. You don’t need to be asleep the entire time, but this lets your body and mind rest.
- Create a sleep routine. About 45 to 60 minutes before bedtime, unplug from devices and start unwinding. This includes self-care, stretching, listening to music, reading, or meditating.
- Set up your room. Make it cold (between 60-67 degrees), dark (using black-out curtains, covering lights from devices, etc.), and quiet by silencing your phone or using white noise machines or fans.
- Use light to your advantage. Try wifi-enabled, dimmable lights to brighten your room before your alarm goes off to help you wake up. If you’re traveling, get outside in the sun to adjust to new time zones.
- Exercise. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise can help you sleep better. It helps clear brain fog, helps you sleep more soundly, and can minimize jet lag. But, try to avoid exercise within three hours of sleep.
- Limit naps and caffeine. While both can give you an energy boost, taking a nap or consuming caffeinated beverages in the afternoon, especially after 3 p.m., can make it more difficult to sleep at night.
- If you cannot sleep, go in another room and do something relaxing. Try reading, stretching, or listening to music. Once you feel tired, get back into bed, and avoid digital screens or stressful tasks.
- “Bank” sleep the night before travel or a long day. While you cannot completely catch up on sleep, sleeping one to two extra hours the night before has been shown to improve your cognitive performance compared to those who did not sleep that extra time.
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