In today’s overscheduled society, sleep may feel like a luxury, when in fact, it’s a necessity. Sleep is vital to our health, safety and overall well-being.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Insufficient sleep has been linked to car crashes, poor work performance and problems with mood and relationships. Sleeping difficulties are also often connected to underlying problems such as stress, depression or anxiety and can raise the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and stroke.
According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2013 Stress in America survey only 20 percent of Americans say the quality of their sleep is very good or excellent. In addition, adults who sleep fewer than eight hours per night report higher stress levels than those who sleep at least eight hours per night.
“National Sleep Awareness Week is March 2-9. This is a perfect time for you to adopt a new behavior to help you sleep better,” OPA Public Education Chair Dr. Todd Finnerty said. “Even changing one small thing, like cutting out snacks before bed, can really make a difference.”
APA and OPA offer these tips for better sleep:
Create a relaxing sleep environment. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and as quiet as possible and keep electronics such as a computer, TV and phones out of the bedroom. Exposure to stimulating objects and lights from computer and TV screens can affect levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your body’s internal clock.
Schedule down time before bed. Setting aside time to unwind and quiet your mind will help you get into a sleepy state of mind. Meditating, breathing exercises, taking a bath and listening to relaxing music are great ways to calm down at night.
Maintain a regular exercise routine. Research shows that exercise increases total sleep time, particularly the slow-wave sleep that’s important for body repair and maintenance. However, don’t exercise too late in the day. Working out close to bedtime can boost energy levels and body temperature, making it harder to fall asleep.
Avoid late night meals and alcohol consumption. Skip heavy meals before bed, and limit alcohol. Even if a cocktail seems to help you fall asleep, it can interfere with sleep quality and disrupt sleep later in the night.
Seek support. Licensed psychologists have the professional training and skills to treat individuals suffering from depression and anxiety, which have been linked to sleep problems like insomnia. Psychologists can help people identify and change their behaviors and manage the thoughts, feelings and emotions that can interfere with a healthy night’s sleep. To find an Ohio psychologist that meets your needs, click on the “Find A Psychologist” link on the ohpsych.org website.