Sleep is an essential part of our daily lives; often, its importance in our health and quality of life is overlooked. The reality is that our sleep quality and sleep hygiene play an enormous role in our ability to focus, be productive, and maintain optimum physical and mental health. Prioritizing sleep and ensuring that you get enough can help increase your overall wellness. Today, we’ll explore factors that can ruin a good night's sleep and strategies to help you get better rest.
If you live with a sleep disorder or have difficulty falling or staying asleep, you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that 50-70 million Americans across the country suffer from one type of sleep disorder or another. More than 90 different types of sleep disorders exist, and they can present in different ways. Some common symptoms to look for when determining whether you may have a sleep disorder include:
- Excessive fatigue and sleepiness throughout the daytime
- Odd events occurring during your sleep (irregular heart rate, sleepwalking, etc.)
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
Consequences of Poor Sleep
Research shows that poor sleep correlates to many different mental and physical health consequences and negative behaviors. Studies show that poor sleep can contribute to an increased risk of:
- Heart attack
Poor sleep also impacts our ability to make decisions and function on an optimal level. More specifically, poor sleep:
- Contributes to a reduction in efficiency at work
- Increases your risk for accidents and injury
- Makes you more vulnerable to making mistakes and errors
- Negatively impacts your judgment
5 Factors That May Be Negatively Impacting Your Sleep
Studies show that specific factors can lead to a poor night’s sleep. These factors include:
Worries about work, deadlines, and other responsibilities can impede your ability to relax and fall asleep.
2. Sleep Environment
Is your sleep environment conducive to rest? If your bedroom is noisy or a lot of light is present in your environment, it may affect your sleep.
3. Foods You Eat
Food and other substances such as alcohol can cause physical discomfort, impacting your ability to fall asleep.
4. Medical Conditions
Medical conditions, including chronic pain, can also contribute to physical discomfort and disruption in your body’s internal clock. That can have an impact on your quality of sleep.
5. Relationship Conflict
Yes—that argument you had with your sister this morning can affect your ability to fall and stay asleep.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Sleep
You can make small and significant changes to help improve your sleep quality. One simple strategy is to keep your bed as a place to sleep only. In other words, don’t do homework or other productive tasks on your bed.
Additional strategies include:
- Making your sleep environment cool, comfortable, and free of noise, light, and other distractions
- Avoiding stimulants, such as nicotine and caffeine, and eating food at least 4 to 6 hours before you want to go to bed. Eating and drinking late at night can impact your ability to fall asleep, and stimulants can keep you awake
- Establishing a healthy sleep routine, which can include showering, washing your face, changing into your pajamas, and reading or engaging in other soothing activities around the same time each evening
- Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, including going to bed around the same time each evening and waking up around the same time each morning as much as possible.
- Avoiding naps during the day. If you absolutely must nap, try to do so before 5:00 p.m., and keep your naps around 20 minutes
- Avoiding staring at the clock or checking your phone if you are struggling with falling asleep. Instead, engage in a relaxing activity, such as reading a book or meditating
- Exercising earlier in the day—more specifically, at least 3 hours before you want to go to bed. Exercising later in the day can inadvertently keep you awake longer than you would like
Furthermore, address any pain or medical issues with your doctor, and make sure you take your medication as prescribed. If you need help paying for your medications, ScriptSave® WellRx can help you save money on your next visit to the pharmacy.
How Much Sleep Do I Really Need?
The general rule of thumb is that the younger you are, the more sleep you require to develop and grow healthily. The Sleep Foundation has outlined recommended sleep times as follows:
- Newborn (0–3 months old): 14-17 hours
- Infant (4–11 months old): 12-15 hours
- Toddler (1–2 years old): 11-14 hours
- Preschool age (3–5 years old): 10-13 hours
- School-age (6–13 years old): 9-11 hours
- Teens (14–17 years old): 8-10 hours
- Young adult (18–25 years old)
- Adult (26–64 years old): 7-9 hours
- Older adult (65 years and older): 7-8 hours
Talk to Your Doctor
Sleep issues impact millions of people across the country. If you think you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor, who can refer you to a specialist. You don’t have to suffer from a sleep disorder; help is available, and there are things you can do to help improve your quality of sleep.
Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.