Your Definitive Guide to Better Sleep Month
What is Better Sleep Month?
For years, health professionals have been telling us that we need more sleep to get (and stay) healthy, and for years, we’ve been ignoring them. In fact, missing out on sleep has become such a huge issue amongst American adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that sleep deprivation is a full-blown epidemic. Yikes!
Helping you to get the sleep that you need to be happy and healthy is what Better Sleep Month is all about, and we’re here to guide you through all the thirty-one days of sleep-focused awesomeness as you learn all about how important quality sack time really is and just how you can get it.
But what exactly is Better Sleep Month? Well, the entire month of May has been dedicated to encouraging all of us to create better sleeping patterns and sleep hygiene, both of which go a long way to toward keeping us as healthy and productive as possible. This important initiative is supported by the Better Sleep Council, an institution that is focused on raising awareness about just how poor sleep disturbs our lives and how high-quality sleep can improve them.
So let’s take a look at just why getting better sleep should be your focus this (and every!) month. We’ll cover the following topics:
Why Sleep is Crucial to Your Health
The Most Common Sleep Issues
Top 5 Sleep Myths Demystified
How to Get the Best Sleep of Your Life
Why Sleep is Crucial to Your Health
According to the CDC, a full quarter of the United States population isn’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis, and almost 10% of us experience some form of insomnia. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is a necessity, not a luxury, no matter what we might hear in the media or from our friends about toughing it out and pulling an all-nighter to get that project finished.
Sleep deprivation negatively impacts your health in the short-term when it’s a temporary issue and in the long-term when it’s a chronic one. Find yourself unable to sleep all of the sudden? You might be suffering from on of the symptoms of acute sleep deprivation…
Consequences of Short-Term Sleep Deprivation
Reduced Focus and Productivity: Losing as little as an hour of sleep a night can cause your daytime alertness to become decreased by as much as 30% and have a serious impact on your ability to focus and get your work done.
Impaired Memory and Cognition: Sleep deprivation causes you to suffer from daytime sleepiness, which creates an inability to think and process information, as well as store memories the way that you would be able to after a night of high-quality sleep.
Stressed Relationships: Missing out on sleep also causes you to become grumpy and moody, even as soon as the next day, which can put a serious strain on your relationships with your partner and your co-workers, creating unnecessary arguments and conflicts.
Lack of Motivation: Running on less sleep than you should be getting can also cause you to miss out on plans with friends and family, due to grogginess and a lack of energy, thanks to missing out on restorative sleep the night before.
Risk of Injury: Being overtired increases your risk of being involved in a workplace accident twofold, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also estimates that sleep deprivation is also responsible for almost 71,000 injuries from traffic accidents each year.
Consequences of Long-Term Sleep Deprivation
Regularly not getting enough sleep can have even scarier effects, including some serious medical conditions and illnesses…
- Mental Impairment
- Depression or Anxiety
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Attack or Failure
With such frightening consequences as these, it’s easy to see why learning how to get better sleep is so crucial to your health and well-being! But what if you’re doing the best that you can in your attempts to get a good night’s rest, yet you can’t seem to catch those ZZZs that you’re craving?
The Most Common Sleep Issues
You might be suffering from one of the following common sleep disorders, and need some help from your doctor to get the refreshing and restful sleep that you need, each and every night.
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep problems faced by Americans. It’s classified as the difficulty of falling or staying asleep, and can be identified by having one or more of these symptoms:
- Routinely having trouble sleeping
- Often waking up in the night
- Regularly waking up too early
- Not feeling rested after sleeping
- Suffering from daytime fatigue
Almost 50% of adults in the U.S. will experience some form of insomnia in their lifetimes and 1 in 10 of them are dealing with chronic insomnia. This sleep disorder can have some serious impacts on our health, including issues with focus and memory, as well as increasing stress and anxiety levels.
Sleep apnea is one of the scarier sleep disorders, as it causes breathing disturbances during the night, and can even lead to the total cessation of breathing while you sleep. There are two types of sleep apnea, defined as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). Both types of sleep apnea should be treated by a physician. Those with OSA might experience such symptoms as snoring or gasping for air when sleeping, restlessness during sleep, and daytime fatigue. People with CSA most commonly experience gasping for breath when sleeping and frequently waking up during the night.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) can be a very frustrating sleeping disorder to deal with, as it causes a powerful and almost undeniable urge to move your legs while lying in bed or sitting for extended periods of time. RLS is often associated with issues like irritability, daytime drowsiness, and the inability to concentrate on tasks.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that causes problems with sleep regulation and leads to the inability to control periods of wakefulness and sleep. Those with narcolepsy suffer from extreme sleepiness in the daytime and even intermittent bouts of falling asleep that are uncontrollable and occur without warning.
If you’re concerned that you might be suffering from one of these sleep disorders, you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor as soon as possible, so they can help you to weed out any sleep issues that you’re having, and conduct some of the routine tests or sleep studies that can assist in identifying and treating any sleep disorder that might be found.
Even though there are those among us that really are suffering from a sleep disorder, more often than not, we’re the cause of our own sleep issues, thanks to clinging to poor sleep habits and buying into some of the sleep myths that seem to be constantly circling around.
Top 5 Sleep Myths Demystified
Let’s take a look at the five most common sleep myths that lead to the vicious cycle of confusion and sleep loss – and reveal the truth behind them so we can all get some better sleep!
Sleep Myth #1: Getting eight hours of sleep is a luxury.
Reality: Sleeping is a necessary part of being happy and healthy, and there is nothing luxurious about that! Getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per night will help you to look and feel better, stay healthier, and perform at your peak. And who doesn’t want that?
Sleep Myth #2: Losing sleep occasionally isn’t fun, but it’s not having any real impact on my health.
Reality: Losing out on even one hour of sleep, one night a week has been proven to increase your risk of having a heart attack, developing Type 2 diabetes, becoming obese, or even suffering from depression.
Sleep Myth #3: I can use my weekends to “store up” sleep and forgo sleep during the work week.
Reality: There is zero chance that you can “bank sleep” and dip into your reserves when you need to pull an all-nighter. Being well-rested can help you deal with sleep loss up to a point but eventually, sluggishness will set in when you’re missing out on the recommended eight hours during the week.
Sleep Myth #4: My body needs less sleep as I get older.
Reality: Sleep studies have shown that we still require the same amount of sleep as we age, and in fact, it has been found that older adults actually need to spend more time in bed to get the same amount of sleep that they were getting when they were younger.
Sleep Myth #5: Pulling an all-nighter to cram for a test helps me to learn better and faster.
Reality: Staying up all night to study for an exam can actually cause your memory to fail you when test time rolls around. That’s because it’s during the deep (or REM) stage of sleep that we consolidate all of our memories of the day, which means skipping out on sleep leads to not being able to remember as much as you would if you’d spent the night before a test sleeping, instead of studying.
Now that you know some of the dangers of sleep deprivation and how important getting better sleep is to your health and well-being, you’re probably starting to see just how vital celebrating Better Sleep Month can be to your plan for getting the high-quality sleep that you need and deserve, right?
How to Get the Best Sleep of Your Life
Getting awesome sleep isn’t as hard as you think it is – we promise! And to help you score better sleep each and every night, we’ve compiled some of our optimum tips for getting the best sleep of your life…
Better Sleep Tip #1: Create a bedtime routine to help your body and your mind know when it’s time to hit the hay. Repeating this routine every night before bed will put you on a dependable schedule that will make getting to sleep much easier.
Better Sleep Tip #2: Your bedroom should be a place that is dedicated to rest and relaxation. Taking the time to turn your room into a sleep sanctuary will pay off big time when it comes to getting better sleep. Removing distractions and focusing on the use of calming colors will help you to create the perfect space for unwinding and resting each night.
Better Sleep Tip #3: Too much light can disrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and make it harder for you to get to sleep (and stay that way). Invest in some softer light bulbs for your bedroom and even consider hanging black-out curtains to keep your bedroom dim and perfect for sleep.
Better Sleep Tip #4: Turn off anything with blue light at least an hour before bed to help your body produce the melatonin that it needs to help you get to sleep. That means cutting off your TV, tablet, cell phone, or computer use at bedtime. It might seem like a hassle, but trust us, you will thank us when you wake up feeling extra refreshed!
Better Sleep Tip #5: Keeping your bedroom at a cooler temperature at night has been shown to help your body to produce melatonin, as well, and make it easier to snuggle up in bed and drift off to Dream Land. If you want to fall asleep faster, try bumping the temp down to between 60° and 68°F before you turn in each night.
Better Sleep Tip #6: Spending some time in the gym is a great way to give yourself an energy boost in the middle of your day and it can even help you tire yourself out in preparation for a good night’s rest. Just be sure that any heavy physical activity that you do happens at least two hours before bedtime, in order to make sure that you’re not too pumped to sleep.
Better Sleep Tip #7: Taking a warm bath or a hot shower at the end of the day will not only get you clean, it will also relax your muscles and help you to unwind before bedtime. Try taking a warm soak about two hours before bed to get you loosened up, while also giving your body the time it needs to cool down to the ideal sleeping temperature.
Better Sleep Tip #8: Drinking a small cup of chamomile tea before turning in for the night can help you to ease any aches and pains that you might have, as well as get your body and mind ready for rest. Chamomile has been shown to have tons of health benefits, and it’s non-caffeinated, making it an ideal way to sip a warm drink and relax before bedtime.
Better Sleep Tip #9: Many of us enjoy having a snack before bed, and as long as you’re having the right kind, this can be a great addition to your pre-bedtime routine. Avoid foods that contain grease, sugar, or caffeine, and look for foods that contain natural sleep aids, such as olives, walnuts, cherries, or tomatoes.
Better Sleep Tip #10: Finding the right pillow for your favorite sleeping position can help you to sleep more soundly and wake up feeling refreshed, instead of irritable and achy. If you sleep on your back or side, try a pillow with a medium height and a bit of firmness to it. If you’re a stomach sleeper, give a soft, flat pillow a try for an amazing night of restorative rest.
Better Sleep Tip #11: And, of course, one of the best ways that you can make sure that every night you spend in bed is one that has you waking up feeling like a million bucks is by making sure to choose the perfect mattress for you. Quality mattresses, like those made from layered memory foam, will keep your body supported and your spine aligned while you sleep, meaning that you’ll have more comfortable nights and happier mornings!