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 can take a toll on your body. Learn why healthy sleep is so important and gain 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. Healthy sleep habits affect nearly every aspect of your health – they help support brain function, immune health, mental health, and even a healthy weight. Though many people proclaim their love of 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.
How much sleep do you need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the amount of sleep you need depends on your age. The guidelines include a range of hours for optimal sleep for each age group, but the National Sleep Foundation acknowledges that everyone has unique circumstances that influence their sleep needs, so they also list an amount that “may be appropriate” in each stage of life. The table below breaks down the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations for adults.
|Amount May Be Appropriate
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
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling more frustrated, cranky, or worried in social situations than you usually would
Interested in how you can sleep well at night naturally?
Follow these tips to help you get a restful night’s sleep. 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, eating a large meal, or drinking large amounts of fluid within a few hours of bedtime may disrupt your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Everyone has slightly different sleep needs, so experiment with what works best for you.
Most experts recommend that you have your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime – eating a large meal right before bed may affect the quality of your sleep. But a small, balanced bedtime snack is usually fine. Consider fruit and yogurt, a small apple and peanut butter, or a small glass of milk.
Try to avoid drinking a lot before bedtime to support optimal sleep and reduce overnight trips to the bathroom. Although it’s tempting to drink alcohol to relax, alcohol may make it difficult to stay asleep throughout the night and wake up feeling rested.
2. Avoid caffeine after your morning coffee.
The stimulant effects of caffeine can be far-reaching. For some, caffeine intake in the afternoon may affect the ability to fall asleep at night. If caffeine is part of your daily routine, try to limit your caffeine intake to the morning hours.
3. Sleep in a cool, dark room.
A cool temperature and a dark space can provide the ideal environment to sleep soundly through the night. If you are sleeping 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 night. In fact, a survey revealed that about 90% of Americans use an electronic device within an hour of bedtime. 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.
5. Consider taking a melatonin supplement.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the body at night – it plays a vital role in the regulation of sleep cycles. If you practice healthy sleep hygiene habits and still have difficulty achieving a healthy sleep schedule, talk with your healthcare provider to find out if melatonin would benefit you. It is important to choose a melatonin supplement that is independently tested and certified for content, purity, and freedom from contaminants. This ensures that your product is safe.
TIPS FOR TAKING MELATONIN
Melatonin supplements can vary substantially in quality and purity. A study examined the content of 30 different melatonin products, and 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 tested products 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.
Always consult with your healthcare professional before taking melatonin to make sure it is right for you.
To support healthy 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. Use these tips to help you develop healthy sleep habits and wake up with energy to carry you through your busy life.