“I used to say sleep was the third pillar [of health]. I was absolutely wrong. It’s the foundation.”
If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia or been sleep deprived, you’ll surely agree with these words by Dr. Matthew Walker, director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
After pulling an all-nighter—or a few in a row—you just aren’t able to be your normal self. Even if your health is in good shape, a couple of sleepless nights is all it takes to make your existence miserable. You’ll discover new pains, you’ll have no energy… In fact, the only thing that you’ll be sure of is that all you want to do is sleep.
Yet, despite the unpleasant aftermath of sleep insufficiency and the serious health repercussions of chronic sleep disorders, one out of every three adult Americans is sleep deprived.
Why can’t we just get a good night’s sleep?
Well, there are a myriad of things that don’t let us get a good night’s rest. Some of them are health-related and some have to do with our lifestyles. If you’ve been suffering from sleep problems for awhile, the first line of action is to see your doctor. Once common medical conditions that disturb sleep such as sleep apnea, hormone imbalances, and depression have been ruled out, it’s time to look at your sleep habits.
Improve your sleep step by step
Step 1: Check your sleeping needs.
Do you sleep in when you don’t have to be up at a certain time in the morning? If you do, you’re probably not getting enough sleep during the week.
Step 2: Get into a system.
Meaning, get on a sleep schedule. Stick to the same bedtime and wake-up time every day.
Step 3: Stop drinking.
Many people who have trouble falling asleep drink alcohol in the evening in hopes that it will help them unwind. Wrong. Booze fragments your sleep, so cut it out.
Step 4: Relax.
Yes, do something to help you unwind (without the assistance of alcohol). Stop checking your work emails and your social media accounts a couple of hours before bed. Or find a similar activity of the same effect.
Step 5: Use (some) technology if necessary.
Yes, sleep experts all around the world recommend leaving your gadgets outside the bedroom. But your devices can actually help you fall asleep if used wisely. The key is, whatever you’re doing should promote your sleep rather than impair it. You can use your smartphone or tablet for a session of guided meditation, to listen to some relaxing music, or even do some journaling to let the thoughts that bother you out of your head.
Step 6: Try “sleep divorce.”
No, you don’t have to sacrifice your marriage for the sake of a good night’s sleep. The two can peacefully co-exist together, but sometimes in different rooms. If you keep waking up time and again because of your partner, you may want to try sleeping in another room or even in a separate bed. It’s normal—in fact, about 30 percent of couples sleep apart.
If you’ve been having trouble falling asleep for awhile, you may have gotten used to this nagging feeling of tiredness and exhaustion. But the good news is, you don’t have to commit yourself to this misery for the rest of your life. All it takes is getting your sleep back to normal.