Just about one third of our lives are spent sleeping. Sleep is a unique and often misunderstood biological function. However, we know for sure that optimum sleep is important for good health and well being. In our modern day, instant gratification, short attention span society, getting a good night's sleep has become increasingly rare. Chronic fatigue and lack of sleep are more common than unusual. The epidemic levels of sleep deprivation have been revealed in many recent studies and it's getting worse. Despite all this, lack of sleep needn't be as prevalent as it is. With some simple lifestyle changes and new habits, we can free ourselves from insomnia and lack of sleep, waking up refreshed and rested for every new day.
We have a definite need for a specific amount of sleep every night. Though the amount may vary for individuals, it is generally about eight hours give or take an hour or two. Not getting the right amount of sleep to meet our needs each night creates a sleep debt. Sleep deprivation or sleep debt is a problem which can accumulate and grow when we continue to go without adequate sleep. Also, sleep debt doesn't just go away and must be paid off with extra sleep above and beyond our daily requirements.
Sleep debt or deprivations can be particularly problematic and difficult to notice when it takes place very gradually over a long period of time. For example, getting only 30 minutes less sleep than you need each night for a month progressively accumulates to a 15 hour sleep debt! Because it is such a prevalent yet undetected problem, sleep deprivation is the cause of every year. Though chronic lack of sleep is wide spread, it's symptoms are often misdiagnosed and mistakenly attributed to other problems like depression, anxiety, stress or aging.
Despite the prevalence of sleep deprivation, we can improve our sleep hygiene with some lifestyle changes and by establishing some new patterns and behaviors. Of course our goal is to get a full night's rest every night and yet despite good intentions , this goal is very elusive for most of us. But it doesn't have to be that way. Here are just a few tips:
Going to sleep at the same bedtime is one of the first steps to forming healthy sleep habits. More importantly, try to wake up at the same time every morning. By waking up strictly at a uniform time each morning, you'll find that your bedtime adapts automatically to this and you will get an adequate amount of sleep.
Reserve your bedroom as a calm and relaxing place only for sleep and sex. This helps you maintain your bedroom as an oasis of sorts that becomes a trigger for sleep automatically. Exercise daily, preferably in the early part of the day or afternoons. Enjoy the many benefits of exercise not only to your health but to your sleeping patterns as well.
Try to give yourself at least 2 to 3 hours between your last meal for the day and your bedtime. This gives your digestive system a chance to gradually ease down and prepare for a good night of sleep. Go to bed when you feel sleepy and don't try to fight it and stay up.
Avoid sleeping pills, they often can make you drowsy but really don't create the deep sleep that is really best for our body's regenerative functions. Learn to meditate, or try taking deep slow breaths. When winding down for sleep, meditation has great benefits, it allows you to clear your mind, lower your heart rate and even lower your blood pressure.
No matter what you try, it is wise to slow down your activities and avoid stimulating things before sleep. Use relaxation CDs and audio files, many of these audio tracks are designed to imitate and stimulate the brain's delta waves which occur during deep sleep. The tracks themselves are often very relaxing and do a good job of bridging the transition from alert state to sleeping state.
Don't obsess about a problem or obligation when it's time for bed, just jot it down on a note pad, make a list. When you write it down, just put it out of your mind. Since you've just written the items down on your note pad, they needn't be a concern anymore.
The tips above are only some of the good habits and changes that you can use to get better sleep and increase your general well being while waking up refreshed every morning. Incorporating just a few of these changes gradually into your routine will make a huge difference in your life satisfaction and general welfare. Keep in mind however that just as sleep deprivation is often caused by a negative cumulative debt, these solutions and lifestyle changes also effect a slow and gradual positive change and you will only see the real results after practicing these suggestions consistently over a period of time.