So much time, so little sleep

Getting better shut-eye isn’t just a dream. These tips can help.

By Emily Melynn Alexander

Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies the lack of sleep in the United States as an epidemic? In fact, studies have shown that insomnia affects at least one-third of people ages 60 and over, one-fifth of teenagers, and more than half of pregnant women. No age group is immune. Here’s the good news: Sleeping challenges can be solved!

Good sleep is essential for your mind and body. Researchers have discovered that sleep correlates with three essential brain functions: concentration, cognition and productivity. Adequate sleep has been found to boost mood, increase emotional empathy, and prevent depression.

The recommended daily amount of sleep for the average adult is seven to nine hours. According to the CDC, “Adults who sleep less than seven hours each night are more likely to say they have had health problems, including a heart attack, asthma, and depression.”

So what can you do to improve your sleep? The American Sleep Association identifies five factors that make falling asleep difficult: stress, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and sleep disorders. These factors have varying effects on sleep patterns but can, in most cases, be managed by following recommended sleeping practices.

Here are some tips to help you sleep better:

  1.  Turn off the busy mind: Information overload can leave our minds racing and prevent us from falling asleep. Recommended techniques to help you switch off your mind include listening to a calming podcast, doing breathing exercises, and trying a guided meditation.
  2. Release muscle tension: Tense muscles and body aches can make falling asleep difficult. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Physically tense and then relax your muscles. The idea is that as you do this your mind will relax, as well.
  3. Avoid caffeine: Beverages like coffee, soda, and energy drinks can adversely leave your heart beating faster. Try drinking soothing bedtime teas like chamomile, passionflower, and magnolia.

This is an abbreviated list, and different combinations of techniques will work for different people. You can also talk with the WAC naturopath about other techniques that might work for you.

Ultimately, sleep is critical to our well-being, and figuring out how to get more and better sleep will likely lead to noticeable physical and mental improvements.

—This article was abridged from “20 tips to fall asleep faster and enjoy better sleep” by Sleep Report. Learn more at sleep.report/20-tips-better-sleep. To make an appointment with the WAC naturopath, contact the Wellness Center at 206.464.1396 or wellness@wac.net.

As published in the January/February/March 2021 issue of WAC Magazine.

—Posted January 15, 2021

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