I’m sleep deprived and on a quest to improve my sleep hygiene. Currently, I get about 4 hours of sleep per night, on a good night, if I’m lucky. And I usually wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. Sometimes, I get sleepy during the middle of the day. And I am not alone.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, 14.5% of adults had trouble falling asleep, and 17% had trouble staying asleep most days or every day in the past 30 days. I think the lack of sleep for so many people might be causing other health issues. Healthcare providers might want to consider recommending sleep as much as they recommend exercising and eating healthier. Doctors have always asked me how much exercise I’m getting and what I’m eating, but I don’t remember a doctor ever asking me how much sleep I’m getting.
Why Is Sleep So Crucial To Your Health?
The National Institute of Health (NIH) describes quality sleep as vital to physical and mental health. Sleep helps brain function, keeps emotions in check, reduces disease risk, and controls weight. “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies,” says Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at NIH. “It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.” In summary, sleep is pretty awesome.
What Happens When You Don't Get Enough Sleep?
Sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression. Sleep deficiency is also linked to a higher chance of injury in adults, teens, and children, for example, driving, playing sports, or handling dangerous machinery while sleepy. According to the American Heart Association, sleeping less than 6 hours daily can raise cancer risk and early death.
How Much Is Enough?
According to the CDC, the following are the daily recommended hours of sleep:
Recommended daily hours of sleep
0 to 3 months
4 months to 12 months
What Is Sleep Deprivation?
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), sleep deprivation is a condition that occurs if you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deficiency is a broader concept that includes sleep deprivation, sleeping at the wrong time of day, or having a sleep disorder. I’m not sure if my poor sleeping is from stress or from perimenopause.
What Causes Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation causes are prevalent, multifactorial, and often missed by physicians as a treatable health problem. Common causes include sleep apnea, mood disturbances, and a range of psychiatric, neurological, and medical conditions. More specifically, they can include shift work, obesity, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or lifestyle choices. And yes that extra shot at 1am counts as a poor lifestyle choice. If you work the evening or night shift, that may affect your sleep. Choosing to party all night or to work instead of sleep will lead to sleep deprivation. If you’re approaching menopause or going through menopause, that might also cause sleep deprivation.
So How Do You Get Good Quality Sleep?
- Stick to a sleep schedule
- Exercise is great, but not right before bedtime.
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol right before bedtime. Also avoid salty foods, fatty foods, processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol. Americans may need to starve themselves to sleep.
- Don’t take naps too close to your scheduled sleep time.
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature. Then resist the urge to watch YouTube despite these being the perfect conditions to do so.
- Remove electronic devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones from the bedroom.
- Get 30 mins to an hour of daily sunlight exposure.
- Take an at home sleep test to determine why you’re not sleeping well. (It might be hormonal.)
- See a sleep specialist if you’re still having trouble sleeping.
My goal is to sleep for 8 hours every night. As an unmarried woman with no kids, this should be easy. I will try the following: I will set a sleep schedule of 12 am to 8 am. I will stop using my phone at 11:30 pm. Also, I will be in bed by 11:30 pm and meditate from 11:30 until midnight. I also saw a sleep specialist who suggested that I exercise more. Does sex count? I also saw a holistic medicine specialist who suggested I take magnesium supplements. I’m not sure if this will work, but I’m desperate enough to try. And what have I got to lose? Definitely not sleep.
The Outcome Of Trying To Improve My Sleep Hygiene
Two months later, life happened, and my stress level increased. I’m not exercising, I’m not sticking to a sleep schedule, and I’m having a hard time with my phone addiction. On the bright side, I’ve stopped taking naps, and I’ve been taking magnesium supplements. I am getting 6 hours now instead of 4. So there is an improvement, but I still have more work to do.