If you feel tired throughout the day it’s possible that you aren’t getting enough sleep or, more importantly, enough of the right kind of sleep. Not only does inadequate sleep leave you exhausted but it also affects your overall mood, productivity and health.
So, how can you tell if you’re getting enough sleep?
Here’s what you need to know about the importance of sleep quality, as well as several ideas for how to improve it quickly.
The Right Kind of Sleep Is Essential
Sleep affects your body and your mind in many ways. From your alertness, immune system and disease response, to your ability to learn and to respond to stress, many indicators of health that we take for granted are actually heavily regulated by the amount of sleep we get on a regular basis.
However, not all sleep is equal.
In order for sleep to have a truly positive impact on your body, you must access the deeper stages of sleep. Deeper sleep stages are restorative to normal brain function and they keep your immune system running at maximum efficiency.
Not sure if you have a sleep problem? Consider your answer to the following questions:
- Do you feel tired immediately/shortly after waking up?
- Do you feel like/actually fall asleep at your desk or at traffic lights?
- Do you feel that you need a lot of caffeine to help fuel your body throughout the day?
- Are you irritable?
- Do you find it difficult to focus on your work?
If you answered yes to any of these questions it’s likely that you aren’t experiencing the best sleep quality. This is a good indication that you could benefit from changing your lifestyle to make your sleep more productive.
Why You're Not Getting Enough Sleep
Here are some factors that may be keeping you from getting quality sleep, and what you can do to work around them.
The most common cause of sleep problems is stress, usually created by work and family obligations. To better manage your stress levels, incorporate exercise into your schedule. However, be sure your exercise is complete at least two hours before bedtime to give your body a chance to unwind before sleep. To help you better relax, spend time in quiet meditation and allow yourself to say “No” to work demands that threaten to disrupt your allocated sleep time.
Chronically busy people tend to eat unhealthy foods and commonly eat too late into the evening. For instance, consuming liquids too late at night (especially beer), or drinking excessive amounts of caffeine throughout the day can cause reflux symptoms, which will negatively affect sleep. In order to alleviate some of your gastrointestinal (GI) problems, don’t eat late at night, avoid caffeine consumption during the afternoon, drink alcohol in moderation and look into healthy ways of losing weight. If you are experiencing GI problems, talk with your physician about your symptoms to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on than a lack of sleep.
Use of Electronics
The use of electronics such as TVs, tablets and (especially) smartphones can have a seriously negative impact on your sleep, as studies show that the type of light emitted by these devices can affect a person’s sleep schedule. The solution is to unplug and relax before sleep, turning off your devices 30 minutes before bed. It’s also a great idea to remove these devices—even the TV—from the bedroom to create an atmosphere that will provide you with stress relief.
If you try out a few of these modifications and see no changes to your quality of sleep, your sleep troubles may be caused by more than your lifestyle behaviors. It’s possible that you have sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or chronic nightmares. If so, these issues are best addressed by a physician. You might benefit from a sleep study session to better determine what’s going on with your sleep. It may turn out that you require medication or a CPAP machine to get you to a point where you can experience deep, restorative sleep.
Is getting enough sleep something you can shrug off as a trivial problem? Definitely not. In fact, doing so can have negative effects to your overall health. It can be hard work to change your lifestyle but it’s worth it. Experiencing deep, restorative sleep can help you to be more alert, capable and functional in your daily tasks.
So now you know what keeps you up at night, it's time to make some changes to improve your health.