Adults Need Sleep Too!

20624221_sAdults on average, need around 7 – 9 hours of sleep at night.  Of course this can vary from person to person, but many adults are not getting enough sleep.  Are you one of them?  Did you know not getting enough sleep could cause you to be more clumsy, make mistakes at work, fall asleep at the wheel, gain more weight, be more depressed and lose some cognitive functioning?  Well, now you do!  And I’m going to help you get more sleep, so you do not have to worry about those things.

There are people who are just busy and feel they do not have time to sleep.  For those of you, I would encourage you to try and make time!  This post is more for those of you who are making time for sleep, but are having trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep.

Some basic information about sleep

I did want to mention a little bit about sleep basics.  None of us sleep totally through the night.  We all have partial awakenings when we switch through sleep cycles.  For the most part, we will wake, fix our pillow or roll over, and go right back to sleep.  Sometimes people can fall asleep at night, but then have trouble falling back asleep when they have these partial awakenings.  This is common if you use something like the television to go to sleep at night, but then it is not on in the middle of the night.

Our bodies do have natural sleep windows, which are our natural times to sleep and be awake.  We do get more restorative sleep when we sleep on our sleep cycle.

And now on to what we can do to get better sleep . . .

Here are some basic tips to get better sleep:

1.  Make your sleep environment conducive to sleep

While you cannot make yourself sleep, you can make your environment conducive to sleep. This means your bedroom should be a dark, fairly quiet, cool place to be. You can use white noise if you have trouble sleeping. It gives the brain something to focus on and will hopefully stop some of the other thoughts that go on when you are trying to sleep. (This is one tip I keep meaning to implement – I do a lot of blog post writing while I am trying to fall asleep!) Sleeping temperature should be around 68 – 72 degrees. Having a comfortable bed with comfortable sheets is a help too!

2.  Get out in the sunshine daily

Sunlight signals are body that it is time to be awake and darkness signals our body that it is time to be asleep.  Getting out in the sunlight during the day (especially early in the morning) helps you to be more awake during the day, and thus can help you sleep better at night.

3. Dim the lights in your house about an hour before bed

Bright lights inhibit the production of melatonin, a calming hormone which helps you sleep. Darkness is a signal to your body to begin producing this hormone.

4. Turn off electronics before bed

This is similar to dimming the lights before bed. Lights from electronics inhibit the production of melatonin.

5. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day

Our bodies do better with a pretty consistent schedule. If your schedule does vary, try not to let it vary by too much if at all possible.

6. Have a relaxing bedtime routine

No, bedtime routines are not just for children. Doing the same thing every night before bed signals your body that it is almost time to sleep.  You can take a warm bath, read a book, or listen to some calming music.

7. Eat sleep conducive foods before bed

Do you get sleepy after eating turkey on Thanksgiving?  Turkey contains Tryptophan, an amino acid which helps your body produce serotonin, a chemical that is responsible for maintaining a healthy sleep cycle.  Now if you do not want to eat Thanksgiving dinner every night, there are other foods that contain Tryptophan and can help you sleep better.  Chicken, seafood and red meat also contain Tryptophan.  Dairy products, nuts, and legumes are other sources of Tryptophan and are probably a better choice for a before bed snack.  New research has said that drinking Tart Cherry Juice before bed can help you sleep better and I have at least one friend who tried it and said it helps.

8. Avoid foods that are not good for sleep

While there are foods that are helpful for sleep, there are also foods that can hinder your sleep.  Anything containing caffeine is a no – no before bed.  Be aware of hidden caffeine in food containing chocolate, sodas (some flavors of Orange and Root Beer contain caffeine, others do not).  Some people react differently to caffeine.  If you are having a lot of trouble falling asleep, you may want to cut back your caffeine and not drink any after lunch.  If you are still having trouble, try skipping a few days of caffeine to see if that helps you sleep.  Do not drink too much of anything before bed as it may cause you to have to wake up and go to the bathroom during the night.  Also, alcohol does not help you sleep and you should avoid it before bed if you are having trouble sleeping.

9. Exercise during the day

If you have chronic insomnia, unfortunately exercising will not begin to help you sleep until you have been exercising for about 4 months.  However, it is still a good thing to do during the day and you might as well start now!

10.  Take care of any medical conditions that may be causing sleep difficulties.

Do you snore?  That can be a sign of a medical condition that can be causing you to not sleep well.  Check out this comprehensive article on snoring – Snoring 101.  Also be sure to check any medications you may be taking to see if they can be interfering with your sleep.

Do you have other thoughts on how to get good sleep?  Feel free to share!

by Michelle Winters
SleepWell Sleep Solutions

9 Thoughts on “Adults Need Sleep Too!

  1. Pingback: I cannot fall asleep without the television on | SleepWell Sleep Solutions - Child Sleep Consulting

  2. Pingback: On A Bed Of Foam | SleepWell Sleep Solutions - Child Sleep Consulting

  3. I’m not a good sleeper, and I have very much noticed the drawbacks you are talking about. One of the things that happen to me when I don’t sleep enough, is that I see problems everywhere, and they are so BIG. Totally out of proportion.

    I have a jar of melatonin now (that’s doctor’s precription around here) and it has been a complete new world sice I use it. I’m falling asleep withing 15 minutes. Not waking up several times a night to go to the bathroom. Getting up in the morning and not worrying about the day straight away… just because I’ve had enough rest. Wow.

    Naturally, I want to get there without the help of a jar. So I’m cutting back on screen time in the evenings, and try to get to bed earlier (which also prevents me from snacking in the evening, two birds with one stone).

    I have been pretty stressed the last year, so I think my serotonin system doesn’t function properly at the moment.

    I’m very happy that you’re writing about adults too. I see one or two tips that I can certainly add to what I’m trying already. Thank you!

  4. Sleep is SO underrated, particularly when it comes to our HEALTH! I heard that not only what we eat, but how often and when, influences our natural circadian rhythms. What are your thoughts on this? Also, I have blackout shades in my bedroom (dungeon dark) and was wondering if my sleep-wake cycle changes because they block out the light from the rising sun in the morning. If this is true, should I be using some sort of natural light night light that turns on in the morning to help wake me up naturally? Thanks so much!

    • sleepwell on October 3, 2013 at 10:24 am said:

      Interesting question Lauren. Do you have trouble waking in the morning? If you do, you may want to look into finding a natural light substitute. Or could you leave the blackout shades open a little to let in some light in the morning? (I know that defeats the purpose of them though!).

  5. I’m happy to say, out of all my faults – I’m a pretty good sleeper. I’ll add two things that has helped for me as well when in the middle of the night I wake up and can’t get back to sleep. 1. Try getting up and doing something else for an hour, like reading or writing. 2. Sleeping up close next to my hubby for whatever reason helps – I think I’m breathing in the pheromones that make me relaxed. Whatever it is, I snuggle up to him for a good 15 minutes, roll over then pull away, and I’m out.

    • sleepwell on October 3, 2013 at 10:25 am said:

      Great suggestions Joanne! The experts do say that if you are having trouble going back to bed to get up and do something, do not just lie there for hours on end. I would just try to do something that does not involve too much light and stimulation. You want to try to avoid checking email and using electronics during the night because of the light.

  6. Train — like an athlete.
    Eat — like a nutritionist.
    Sleep — like a baby.
    WIN — like a champion.

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