Most people are well aware that they need to eat right and exercise regularly in order to stay healthy. However, most people aren’t aware that sleeping well is equally important. Unfortunately, due to busy and hectic work life and schedules, every third American struggle with sleep in some way. One out of three people suffer from sleep problems at least once a week and wake up feeling groggy and exhausted. So, is there a way to sleep better without using meds or completely refurbishing your bedroom? Yes, there is. Grab your favorite pillow, curl up and keep reading.
How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
Before you start thinking you have a problem, think if you are getting as much as shuteye as you should. Most people who wake up tired every day don’t have a sleep problem. They simply don’t have enough time to sleep.
The only person who can determine how much sleep you need is you. It’s that simple. If you feel tired, you need more sleep. You should sleep around seven hours every night in order to feel refreshed and rested. Research shows that sleeping less than seven hours a night (paired with other factors) may result in experiencing severe health problems such as obesity, heart disease, depression and heart attack.
Apart from your age, you should be aware that factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and environment play a significant role in how much sleep you need. If you work a lot or engage in strenuous physical activity every day, you require more sleep than a person with an average schedule. Lastly, have in mind that the quality of your sleep is strongly affected by your habits.
Are You Sleepy?
The simplest way to determine if you are sleeping enough is to ask yourself if you are sleepy. If you are regularly tired, have to nap during the day, your body is loudly letting you know that you need to sleep more. If you don’t have a busy schedule and you manage to sleep seven or eight hours per night, and still wake up tired, you will definitely have a problem. Having a sleep problem doesn’t necessarily mean you suffer from a sleep disorder. It is necessary to see a doctor and find out what is messing with your sleep.
Keep a Sleep Diary
Keeping a sleep diary might help you identify your sleep problem. Also, you may be surprised when you actually start monitoring your sleep and see your snooze pattern in black and white. When keeping a sleep diary, you should write down the following:
• The time you go to bed and the hour you wake up
• The total number of hours you sleep (including naps)
• Note if you wake up in the middle of the night
• Note how you feel in the morning (refreshed or tired)
If you decide to visit a doctor, this little sleep diary will also be very valuable to your doctor. This is a simple way to gain more insight into your sleep habits.
Sleep Vacation Experiment
In order to identify your individual sleep needs, consider trying a little sleep vacation experiment. To do this, you need a week or two when you don’t have to be somewhere at a specific time in the morning, like your job. So, in order to try this out, you may need to wait until a vacation.
The experiment requires picking the same bedtime and wake up every night, and turning off your alarm. Record when you wake up in the morning.
During the first few days, you will definitely sleep longer because you are returning your sleep debt. However, after a week, you will begin to notice a specific pattern and find out how many hours of shuteye your body needs each night. For some people, that might be 7 hours, while for others 9 or more hours. Once you find out how many hours of slumber you need, pick a bedtime that will allow you to sleep enough to wake up naturally.
How to Become a Morning Person
If you can’t get up early in the morning, you should try tuning up your circadian clock. Circadian rhythm is our body’s natural snooze and wake up clock that regulates our sleep pattern. To tune your inner clock, you will need a little focus and patience, but a lot of discipline. Changing your sleep pattern and resetting your inner clock requires a lot of commitment, meaning you will have to change some of your good old habits, such as watching Netflix until 3 am.
To become a morning person, you first need to set a goal for your wake-up time and move your current wake-up time by 20 minutes each day. For example, if you typically wake up at 8 am, but you would like to get up two hours earlier, instead of eight, set your alarm clock for 7:40 am. Then move 20 minutes earlier each day until you have set your alarm for 6 am.
It is very important to go to bed when you are tired. To avoid unnecessary stimulation before bedtime, avoid watching TV or using your computer and smartphone. When your alarm goes off in the morning, you mustn’t stay in bed. Immediately get up and expose yourself to fresh air and bright sunlight. Lastly, try going to bed a bit earlier the next night. That should help you feel sleepy around 20 minutes earlier each night.
How to Wake Up in the Morning
If you can’t wake early in the morning, try the following tips. Start by using a louder alarm. If you sleep through your alarm, you have to change it. Sometimes, changing the ringtone to something irritating and setting the volume on high may do the trick.
One of the most natural ways to wake up in the morning is sunlight. Leave your blinds open to let the sunshine in and help you wake up faster.
Eating breakfast at the same time every day will train your body to expect food at a particular time and help you get prepared for it in the morning. If you have ever flown across time zones, you might have noticed that airlines often serve breakfast to help passengers adjust to the new time zone.
It is essential to keep the same bedtime routine every day, even on weekends. Staying up late on Friday night or sleeping in during the weekend will detune your inner clock. So, when you try to get up at 6 am on Monday, you will feel like it’s 4 am.
Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic