Sleep deprivation runs rampant in the U.S., with the CDC estimating 1 in 3 Americans get less than the ideal 7-8 hours of sleep. Up to 70% of survey respondents claim they at least occasionally have trouble falling or staying asleep.
The truth is you need to set yourself up for sleep success, leaning whenever possible into your natural inclination to be awake while the sun is out and sleeping when it’s not. However, it might not be very practical to follow that pattern to a T, especially when those hours shift over the course of the year.
But there are plenty of ways we can enhance our chances of getting a good night’s sleep. The rewards include improved mood, better heart health and an easier time controlling your weight.
Keep a consistent schedule — Get out of and go to bed around the same time every day, including weekends. Bedtime should be whenever you start getting genuinely drowsy at night. A big gap between weeknight and weekend sleep patterns can lead to jetlag-like symptoms that are clearly not helpful for wakefulness and productivity.
Control your light exposure — This includes both maximizing exposure to sunlight during the day and reducing light from all sources as you get closer to bedtime. Many experts recommend turning off TVs and electronic devices two hours before bedtime and keeping the room you sleep in as dark and quiet as possible.
Limit food and liquid intake at night — Eat dinner earlier in the evening when possible, and consider making lunch your largest meal of the day. Try not to drink much, if any, water or other liquid for the last two hours before bed to avoid having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Wind down mentally — As bedtime gets closer, let your mind settle down into a restful place as well. Turn bright lights out an hour or two beforehand, and read a book quietly or listen to soothing music. Many people have found meditation or other relaxation exercises late in the evening helps them get into a sleep-ready state.