By Lacy Wolff
It’s fair to say that, as Americans, we are hard-wired to think we can work more and sleep less and still remain effective. One of our founding fathers, after all, said that “there will be sleeping enough in the grave.”
When sleep won’t come
If you are trying your best to sleep but are still struggling, you may have a sleep disorder.
Long-term sleep disorders can result in damage to the heart and potentially create irreversible brain damage.
The most common sleep disorders include:
- obstructive sleep apnea
- restless leg syndrome
- shift work disorder
- nightmare disorder
If you think you have a sleep disorder, talk to your primary care physician to find out how to get on the right track.
With all due respect to Benjamin Franklin, sleep deprivation is not a good health choice. Research shows that not getting enough sleep, or getting poor-quality sleep, increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
In fact, most adults need to spend at least seven hours asleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
A habit you can sleep on
The human brain loves repetition and much of our behavior is rooted in habits. Sleep is no different. We can create a bedtime routine that tells our subconscious brain when it’s time to go to sleep.
The first step is recognizing what habits are keeping you from a restful sleep. For many of us, the bed is command central—you have your phone, laptop, remote control or a book with you when you go to bed. As a result, the brain doesn’t know that it’s supposed to sleep while you’re in bed.
Fortunately, you can use the following tips to retrain your brain:
- Try to keep overhead lights off after the sun goes down. Dim the lights you do keep on. This will help you produce melatonin, our sleep inducing hormone.
- Turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine late in the day and alcoholic drinks before bed.
- Relax before bed. Take a warm bath. Use aroma therapy—your brain will start to associate the smell with rest.
- Listen to some soothing music or a guided sleep meditation.
Sleep is as essential to our brain as nutritious food is to our bodies, so make it a priority!