I’ll be honest. Each night, when it’s time for me to go to bed, I could probably come up with a list of 50 things I’d rather be doing than sleeping. I have a hard time prioritizing sleep. I have a hunch, however, that I am not alone in this. We Americans like to go, go, go! And if we aren’t procrastinating on a good night’s sleep with hobbies or tasks we enjoy, we are certainly completing the chores we feel we need to get done instead of sleeping. Here are some facts:

  • The amount of sleep each individual needs varies, but on average, adults need 7-8 hours per night.
  • In 2008, 46% of participants in the Sleep in America poll reported taking two or more naps in the past month, with those who reported taking five or more naps being more likely to experience daytime sleepiness, drowsiness while driving, and being obese.
  • Common sleep disorders include insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea; and, of those surveyed in the 2008 Sleep in America poll, the percent of respondents at risk for each of these disorders was 11%, 11%, and 14% respectively.
  • According to the poll, 49% of participants woke up unrefreshed at least a couple times per week, while a whopping 65% reported experiencing sleep problems at least a few nights per week.
  • According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep disorders are associated with a variety of common chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and hypertension to name a few.
  • Check out the sources cited above for tons more great info on sleep: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/images/nhlbisleepinfographic_508.pdf & http://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/2008%20POLL%20SOF.PDF

Statistics aside, I think we can all agree we just feel better when we get enough sleep! If you are not dealing with any sleep disorders, yet are still having trouble sleeping, these adjustments may help you out: 

  • Have a set bedtime and wake up time. Sticking to a schedule, even on weekends or days off, can help your body develop a natural sleep rhythm.
  • Turn off electronics before bedtime. This might be a challenge due to the fact that computers, televisions, tablets, cell phones, etc are everywhere and used for many of our work and social tasks, but powering down even an hour before bedtime can keep your eyes away from artificial light and send the message to your brain that it’s time for sleep.
  • Exercise. People who move regularly sleep better. Try to avoid strenuous exercise 4 or less hours to bedtime. However, incorporating gentle stretching, yoga, or meditation into a bedtime routine may be very useful.
  • Jot down ideas before heading off to bed. Any important thoughts or tasks to be completed the next day can easily play again and again in your mind, so putting them on paper can help to put your mind at ease for the evening.
  • Make your sleeping environment comfortable. Bedrooms should be dark and cool. Invest in a great pillow that suits your sleeping position as well as some comfortable bedding and a quality mattress. Keep electronics out of the bedroom.
  • Have a set bedtime routine. This can cue your body and mind that it’s time to sleep! A shower or bath, a cup of tea, gentle stretching or meditation, and reading are all great for preparing for sleep.

Now that I’m finished with this post, I can safely say I am not following my own advice this evening! As with all lifestyle changes, there is no time like the present to get started. Time to power down, stretch my sore muscles, and catch some zzzz’s!

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The pups know how it’s done.

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