Are you getting your 40 winks every night? I hope so.
Some troubling new research shows the average American isn’t… and it affects them as many as 300 days out of the year.
Sleep deprivation costs the U.S. economy a whopping $411 billion each year from accidents and lost productivity.
But a lack of sleep takes a far bigger toll than just on the economy.
Missing the Mark
Everything our body does requires time to recuperate. And not getting enough sleep leads to the following:
- Impaired memory
- An inability to learn new things
- Slower reaction time
- Increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Weak immune system
- Increased risk of cancer
- High blood pressure and heart disease.1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night in order to function properly and avoid developing sleep-related issues.
But millions of adults – nearly half of the country – aren’t hitting that mark.
The American Sleep Association reports that nearly 40% of adults unintentionally fall asleep during the day at least once a month. That might not sound like a big deal, but “daytime sleepiness” has shown to increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 56%.6
Simply put, not getting enough sleep speeds up the aging process and increases the likelihood of death from any cause.7
But the typical solution isn’t what this doctor orders…
We’re dealing with an epidemic of sleeplessness.
And it’s caused many people to head to the pharmacy, seeking a quick and easy solution.
I get it. Not being able to fall asleep at night can feel like a helpless struggle…
But sleep-inducing drugs don’t actually help the underlying causes of sleeplessness. They can, however, provide people with hallucinations, sleepwalking, amnesia and depression.
Researchers at the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Center in California also found taking sleeping pills resulted in a 35% greater risk of developing cancer.8
All of that risk comes with the benefit of being able to fall asleep – on average – just 13 minutes faster and a total increased sleep time of 11 minutes.
So here are a few tried-and-true ways to ensure a better night’s sleep and feel more rested, refreshed and healthy.
Six Tips for Better Sleep
For starters, put away your phone. Our various screens are known to inhibit our ability to fall asleep. That’s because the blue light they give off disrupts our circadian rhythm and convinces us to stay awake longer. So tuck your phone away at least an hour before bed.
On that same note, even the slightest bit of light (natural or otherwise) can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
So make your bedroom as dark as possible. Ditch the night lights. Turn the digital alarm clock away from you. Put blackout curtains on the bedroom windows. And if that’s not an option, wear a sleep mask.
When it’s time to sleep, temperature matters too. When it’s too hot or too cold, the body isn’t very good at shutting down for the night. You want to keep the thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees.
When we sleep, our internal temperature lowers. So mimicking the process by lowering the external temperature is more conducive to sleep.
That may be a bit cooler than you’re used to – especially in the winter – but it will help you fall asleep quicker and get more restful sleep. Not to mention it’ll save you a couple bucks on your energy bill in the process.
Set a sleeping pattern and stick to it. Going to bed and waking up at the same time – even on the weekends – will help your body establish a rhythm, making it easier to train your body to get the right amount of sleep.
Avoid eating and drinking at least two hours before bed. This will reduce the chance that you’ll need to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
Relax with sound. Some people find that white noise machines or nature sounds help block out the chaos going on in our minds.
Once you have your environment as conducive as possible for falling asleep, here’s my favorite trick to speed up the journey to the land of nod.
The Cherry on Top
Tart cherry juice is quite possibly the crème de la crème of nature’s sleep aids.
It’s rich in melatonin, which, as we mentioned earlier, is the hormone responsible for inducing sleep.
It also contains anthocyanins and tryptophan, both of which help the body create melatonin and extend its effects.
One study demonstrated that two 8-ounce glasses of tart cherry juice per day increased sleep time by an average of 85 minutes.9
Take that, Big Pharma and your sleeping pills!
Tart cherry juice was also found to be even more effective at reducing the symptoms of insomnia than taking just a melatonin supplement.10
If you want to double down on your sleep-inducing beverages, pick up some ashwagandha. This is a powerful herb with stress-relieving and antioxidant properties.
It can be found infused in teas, in supplements or as a standalone powder. If taken in powder form, you can try mixing just a half teaspoon with 6 ounces of warm milk, a hearty splash of cherry juice and a dash of nutmeg for a deliciously relaxing sleep aid.
Dealing with the occasional restless night is one thing.
But more and more Americans are waking up to the fact that they have chronic sleeplessness.
Because of how damaging this can be on our mind, body and spirit, it’s unacceptable.
Sleep shouldn’t be a chore. It’s a necessity.
And persistent loss of sleep has seriously damaging effects on your health.
So if you’re dealing with chronic sleeplessness, try some of these tricks to start waking up on the right side of the bed again.