More than a third of all Americans don’t get good quality sleep on a regular basis, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Consumer Reports notes that the reasons are manifold. For one, Americans are working longer (an average of 44 hours a week) – the longest work week ever recorded by a Gallup poll. Working longer means we have less time to complete household chores, attend to children’s needs, and work out. The latter is particularly important when it comes to keeping our stress levels down and our mood and vitality up where they belong!
Poor Sleep, Depression & Anxiety
Numerous studies carried out over the past five years alone have shown that poor sleep exacerbates mental conditions like anxiety and depression. One 2016 study found that a lack of sleep increases a child’s risk of mental disorders later in life. That is, kids with poor sleep habits are at an increased risk of depression and anxiety in their adulthood. Poor sleep is also tied into postpartum depression and it is linked to a host of physical ailments which, when present, can make it harder to enjoy a good quality of life. The list of conditions and ailments includes heart disease, inflammation, stroke, and obesity.
Poor Sleep Wrests From Your Positivity
A study published recently in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research found that those who are sleep deprived have a lower ability to remain positive. The lead researcher of the study noted: “In general, we have a tendency to notice positive stimuli in our environment, but now we’re seeing that sleep deprivation may reverse that bias… over time, this may increase the risk for depression.” A similar study published in Child Development showed that there is a link between late night cell phone use, mental health, and poor sleep; in essence, cell phone use at bedtime can lower self-esteem and increase depression in teens.
Sleep Hygiene Matters
Poor sleep does not just involve sleeping for less than the recommended seven to eight hours a night (the number of hours varies according to age). Even if you meet your targets, you can still have poor sleep quality, for instance, if you wake up frequently, take a long time to fall asleep, or have irregular working shifts. Doing so means you may not be making it through all the sleep cycles, including that of deep sleep – the restorative phase during which you produce Human Growth Hormone (HGH – which is important for growth, cell regeneration, and cell reproduction). Sleep hygiene therefore means more than getting the required quantity of sleep; it also involves sleeping comfortably and in accordance with the body’s circadian rhythms.
Creating The Right Resting Space
Bedroom design may not be a priority, but if you have poor sleep quality, it is important to identify aspects of your bedroom design that may be interfering with rest. For instance, does too much light enter your bedroom? Do you live in a noisy area? When was the last time you changed your mattress? The Better Sleep Council recommends that you replace your mattress every seven-to-10 years. When you do, make sure to select the right mattress for your sleeping position. Those who sleep on their back or tummy, for instance, will need a firmer bed, while those who are slide sleepers will benefit from a memory latex foam mattress, which will ensure their entire body is supported. Your room should be cool but you should have warm, snuggly blankets, with wool being a suitable choice on chilly winter nights and breathable knits working well in the summer. Darkness and light are also key; use blackout curtains to keep your bedroom dark at sleep time, and soundproof your room if noise is a problem.
Keep Stress Levels Down
It is also vital to address any psychological causes that may be keeping you awake at night. Stress, financial worries, and other problems can lead to recurrent thought cycles than can make it hard to sleep. Battle stress proactively during the day, finding whatever time you can for a fitness routine. Relaxing activities such as yoga and meditation have been found to be particularly effective at reducing stress. You might want to try progressive muscle relaxation at bedtime. This simply involves tensing and relaxing all muscles in your body – from your toes to your head.
Poor sleep has been linked to a higher likelihood of accidents, poorer work and academic performance and, in the long run, a risk of serious disease. Try to establish a strict bedtime routine and battle stress proactively in the daytime through exercise and relaxation techniques. Finally, if the problem persists, or if you wake up feeling tired instead of refreshed, see a sleep specialist to check for potential problems like sleep apnea.