Sleep is vital to your overall health and well-being. For some people, getting enough sleep is merely a matter of making it a priority and allowing enough time to get a good night’s sleep. For others, falling asleep and staying asleep is difficult. When you do not get enough sleep night after night, it takes a toll on your body. In this article, we reveal why healthy sleep is so important. Then we share essential tips on how to sleep well at night naturally.
Importance of Healthy Sleep
To set the record straight: it is a myth that people can get by on little or no sleep. Even though many people go on about how much they love to sleep, nearly 35% of adults in the U.S. report not getting enough sleep, with over 11% reporting less than 5 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can lead to significant problems for you and others if you’re sleep-deprived and get behind the wheel. Sleep deprivation can lead to problems with attention, memory, and accuracy during analytical tasks, mood changes, and even sadness.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated 91,000 police-reported vehicle crashes involved drowsy drivers. However, it is difficult to accurately determine traffic accidents caused by drowsy driving, and many traffic, safety, and sleep science organizations agree that the impact of drowsy driving is probably much greater.
How much sleep do you need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the amount of sleep you need depends somewhat on your age. They also categorize the amount of sleep you need into two categories: the recommended amount and an amount that “may be appropriate.” The table below breaks down the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations for adults.
|Age Range||Recommended Amount||Amount May Be Appropriate|
|18-25||7-9 hours||6-11 hours|
|26-64||7-9 hours||6-10 hours|
|65 +||7-8 hours||5-9 hours|
These guidelines allow a bit of leeway for those who report that they can get by on less sleep. However, it is still important to recognize the signs that you’re not getting enough sleep. Some red flags that you are not getting enough sleep include:
- Falling asleep while driving or sitting in traffic
- Dozing off while riding for less than one hour as a passenger in a car
- Nodding off at your desk after lunch
- Depressed mood, difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling more frustrated, cranky, or worried in social situations than you usually would
Want to know how to sleep well at night naturally? Follow these five tips.
To sleep well at night naturally, consider limiting food and drink close to bedtime. You should also regulate the light and temperature in your room and turn off all electronic devices before bed. Consider taking a melatonin supplement to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
1. Limit alcohol, food and drink at bedtime.
Having a cocktail and simply eating or drinking within a few hours of bedtime can disrupt your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Everyone has slightly different sleep needs, so experiment with what works best for you.
Stop eating well before bedtime. Digestion can cause sleep disturbance and can make it difficult to fall asleep and sleep soundly. Having too much fluid increases nighttime visits to the bathroom, so consider limiting fluids within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
Although it’s tempting to drink alcohol to relax, alcohol causes nighttime awakenings for some people. You may fall asleep quickly, but you may not be able to stay asleep.
2. Avoid caffeine after your morning coffee.
The stimulant effects of caffeine can be far-reaching. For some, caffeine intake in the afternoon affects the ability to fall asleep at night. It’s best to use caffeine only before noon and eliminate caffeine intake later in the day.
3. Sleep in a cool, dark room.
A cool temperature and a dark space can be an ideal environment for most people to sleep soundly through the night. If you are sleeping during a time when it is light outdoors, consider investing in blackout shades or a sleeping mask. A room that is too warm or too cold can cause you to wake up during the night, so experiment with the right temperature for you.
4. Limit screen time at bedtime.
Many folks watch television or use the computer, a tablet, or a phone at nighttime. The light that emits from these devices suppresses your body’s natural melatonin production. Ultimately, this can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. In addition to turning off all devices well before bedtime, you can consider taking a melatonin supplement.
5. Consider taking a melatonin supplement.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the body at nighttime, which plays a vital role in the regulation of sleep cycles. The light emitting from your phone, computer, television, or tablet before bedtime, decreases your body’s natural melatonin production. This decrease in natural melatonin production can affect your sleep. Besides turning off your devices well before bedtime, a melatonin supplement can support healthy sleep.
It is important to choose a melatonin supplement that is independently tested and certified for content, purity, and freedom from contaminants.
TIPS ON TAKING MELATONIN
Melatonin supplements can vary substantially in quality and purity. A study examined the content of 30 different melatonin products. The researchers found that 71% of the supplements tested did not contain the amount of melatonin claimed on the label. The melatonin content in the supplements that were tested ranged from 83% below to as much as 478% above the amount stated on the label. Researchers also found that 26% of the products they tested were contaminated with serotonin (a potent neurotransmitter).
It is essential to look for independent testing and certification to verify the amount of melatonin listed on the label. Independent testing and certification can also confirm that a supplement is free from contaminants. USP or NSF® International conducts third-party testing and certification for dietary supplements, so look for these on your supplement label.
If you are being treated for an auto-immune disease, depression, diabetes, seizure disorder, or thyroid disease, consult with your healthcare professional before taking melatonin.
To maximize your natural melatonin production, turn off your TV, tablet, or phone well before bedtime. Timing counts when taking melatonin. Take your supplement 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime.
It is easy to see why restful sleep is so important. Among other things, it is an important predictor of your overall health. Luckily, you can try to sleep well at night naturally by following the tips we have outlined in this article.