Sleep is essential for our overall health, yet more than 35% of adults in the United States report sleeping less than seven hours per night on average. Since we want to make sure that you get enough sleep from now on, we’re going to answer a bunch of frequently asked questions about sleep and share eight ways that you can relax before bedtime. This way you’ll be able to avoid (or fix) common sleep problems and finally enjoy a good night’s sleep!
How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
The appropriate sleep duration for healthy adults is between seven to nine hours per night. However, the ideal amount of sleep may vary from person to person. So, in some cases, an hour more or an hour less of sleep per night may be acceptable based on your own unique set of circumstances.
And while sleeping for the recommended duration is extremely important, it’s not the only aspect of sleep that matters. Sleep quality is another critical factor to be mindful of as it’s connected with sleep continuity and avoiding sleep disruptions.
Why Is Getting Enough Sleep Important?
Anyone who has ever had a poor night’s sleep and then struggled to make it through the next day knows exactly why you need to get enough sleep each night. But scientifically speaking, your body works to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health while you sleep. Getting enough quality sleep at the appropriate times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety, as well as the safety of others.
In fact, 20% of all serious car crash injuries are associated with driver sleepiness. Drivers are also three times more likely to be in a car crash if they’re fatigued. That’s because drivers’ reaction times, awareness of hazards, and ability to sustain attention all worsen the drowsier the driver is while driving.
Lack of sleep affects people everywhere though, not only on the roads. Highly fatigued workers are 70% more likely to be involved in workplace accidents than workers with lower fatigue levels. And ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems, too. Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development of chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.
That’s why we all need to prioritize our sleep and become aware of the things that are causing our sleep problems.
What Types Of Things Affect Our Sleep?
Our home lives, work lives, and where we live most definitely can affect our ability to fall asleep and how much we sleep throughout the night. 42.6% of single parents sleep less than seven hours per night compared to 32.7% of adults in two-parent homes and 31% of adults with no children. Almost 1 in 2 adults in Camden, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan report short sleep, while Boulder, Colorado has the lowest percentage of adults (24.2%) in the United States who sleep less than seven hours per night. And over 32% of working adults reported sleeping six or fewer hours per night, which is up from years prior.
93% of people say a comfortable mattress is important to being able to get a good night’s sleep, and 78% of people say they’re more excited to go to bed when they have fresh-smelling sheets. So, the type of mattress that we use, as well as how fresh our sheets are, can also impact the way we sleep.
There are also many other factors (for better or worse) that can impact our sleep hygiene, which includes our bedroom setting and sleep-related habits. 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week has been associated with reduced levels of daytime sleepiness, which may in turn promote quality sleep later at night when it’s actually time for us to catch some Zzz’s. On the other hand, drinking more than one serving per day of alcohol for women and more than two servings per day for men has been found to decrease sleep quality by almost 40%. Many of us experience sleep disruptions throughout the night, as well. More than 75% of women and almost 70% of men over 40 years old get up to go to the bathroom at least once per night.
And don’t even get us started on all the things running through our minds at night, which prevent us from getting quality sleep. Bedtime worry has been found to be a significant contributor to difficulty falling asleep. Luckily, there are a number of sleep hacks that we can take advantage of that will allow us to relax before bed.
8 Ways To Relax Before Going To Bed
What’s relaxing for one person may be stressful for another. That’s why we’re highlighting eight different ways that you can relax before bed. This way you can pick and choose the best relaxation techniques for you.
1. Create An Effective Bedtime Routine
One of the best ways to get quality sleep is to actually prepare your body and mind for it, rather than just jumping into bed after a long, hard day and expecting your mind to turn off. We all know that method doesn’t work by now, right? So, rather than just continuing to wing it and hope for the best, it’s time to create a bedtime routine for yourself.
That means committing to improving your sleep hygiene by sticking to the same sleep schedule every day. (Yes, this includes weekends, too!) It’s also important to sleep on a supportive and comfortable mattress and use quality pillows and bedding. Make sure to optimize your bedroom temperature, as well.
Then about 30 minutes to an hour before you plan on going to bed, start winding down by doing transition activities that can aid sleep.
2. Make A Future To-Do List
Pick a time between the end of your work day and before you start transitioning to sleep to write down everything that you need to accomplish the following day, and maybe even for the rest of the week. By writing the things you have to do down (even if you’re looking forward to these activities), it will give you a clearer sense of what needs to get done in the coming days. You’ll also get everything bouncing around in your head down on paper, which will help clear your mind. A study even found that people who write to-do lists for future tasks fall asleep almost ten minutes faster than people who write about tasks they already accomplished that day.
3. Take A Relaxing Bath or Shower
A clinical review found that a warm bath or shower before bed can aid sleep. If you decide to take a bath toward the end of your day, consider lighting a scented candle to reduce anxiety and increase your sense of calm. Lavender scented candles are known to instantly relax both your body and mind, while vanilla scented candles can increase happiness levels, uplift your mood, and stimulate feelings of joy and relaxation.
4. Read A Book, Watch A Funny TV Show, Or Listen To A Podcast
If the stressors of the day are still getting to you, one way to get your mind off of anything that you’re worried about is to do an activity that you enjoy before bed. You might choose to read a book, watch a TV show or a movie, or listen to a podcast (or music).
The key here is to do this activity anywhere but your bed since you only really want to use your bed for sleeping. And a word to the wise, try not to read a book, listen to a podcast, or watch a TV show or movie that’s very intense, will upset you, or potentially draw you in and have you watching, reading, or listening past your bedtime. The goal here is for you to relax and prepare for a night of quality sleep, not disrupt your sleep schedule and cut into your scheduled sleep time.
5. Stretch Or Do Yoga
Low-intensity workouts like yoga and stretching shouldn’t negatively affect your sleep and are another relaxation technique to consider since the gentle movements can ease pain and aid sleep. There are even muscle relaxation exercises that you can do while you’re in bed such as progressive muscle relaxation.
To do progressive muscle relaxation in bed, lie on your back with your arms and legs stretched out in a comfortable position. Curl your toes for a few seconds and then release. Then tense your calf muscles for a few seconds and release again. Do the same with your upper leg muscles – tensing for a few seconds and then releasing. Continue working upward through each muscle group in your body, tensing for a few seconds before releasing. Keep going until you reach your shoulders.
6. Focus On Your Breathing
Breathing exercises are one of the easiest ways to engage your body’s natural relaxation response. So, if you find yourself tossing and turning or staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, try doing diaphragmatic breathing, which is a breathing exercise that you can do without turning a light on or bothering your partner while they’re sleeping. Simply place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Inhale through your nose for about two seconds, while feeling your belly expand. Then push gently on your belly as you slowly exhale. Repeat ten times, or as much as needed.
7. Do A Guided Meditation
Meditation and guided imagery can calm your mind and may help you fall asleep, too. Doing a guided meditation before bed will help you focus your thoughts on something other than what you’re worried about. And one of the great things about guided meditation is that the more you practice meditation and guided imagery, the more effective it will become over time.
8. Allow Yourself To Unplug
One of our biggest sleep distractions is 24-hour internet access. So, give yourself permission to unplug from your phone and/or computer 30 minutes to an hour before bed since the bright artificial light may signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake, even though it’s actually time for you to go to bed.
And just keep in mind, the key here is consistency. Don’t just try one of these relaxation techniques for one night, say it doesn’t work, and then give up. Truly commit to improving your sleep hygiene and then you’ll be able to look forward to a much-deserved night of rest at the end of every day.
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