Why We Don’t Sleep & How to Sleep Better

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When we are cranky, taxed, or irritable, one of the quickest ways to feel better fast is to simply sleep more. We know more sleep can help with many issues, but we often overlook or reject taking this basic step toward wellness.  Why? And at what cost?

In my work, I’ve found that people opt to get less sleep than they need for several reasons. Oftentimes, the hours late at night are the only time we get to ourselves, so we stay awake to cherish them. In other cases, we are too busy to get enough sleep—our obligations keep us from turning in at a decent time. And sometimes sleep deprivation is a badge of honor for hard work, or something that just seems ordinary since everyone else is so tired.

Sadly, there are many, many of us who are dealing with sleep deprivation. Two-thirds of adults in the developed world fail to get the recommended eight hours of sleep. In fact, the World Health Organization has declared a sleep loss epidemic throughout industrialized nations.  

This global lack of sleep comes at a price.  Consider these negative side effects of sleep deprivation:

  • A compromised immune system, making it easier to get sick

  • Susceptibility to weight gain

  • Increased risk of heart disease

  • Difficulty regulating mood

  • Greater risk of anxiety and depression

This list goes on and on, and it’s downright scary.

Being tired also skews our perception of what’s happening around us.  Every event can be perceived in a number of ways, with our interpretations ranging from positive to negative.  When we are tired, we are quick to be gloomy and pessimistic, putting us at risk for feeling even worse.  

So how do you build better sleep habits and stave off these consequences?  

Here are 5 tips for better sleep:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule.

  2. Avoid alcohol before bedtime.

  3. Avoid large meals late at night.

  4. Don’t lay in bed awake.  If you can’t sleep, get up and do something until you feel sleepy.  Feeling anxious about not sleeping makes it harder to fall asleep.

  5. Sleep in a dark, phone-free or gadget-free room.

While we resist sleep, being more rested makes our days better. We feel more contented around the clock, coming to rely less on the nighttime to steal time for ourselves, or make up for hours of daytime drudgery. Next time you find yourself feeling off, evaluate whether you need more sleep and figure out how to make that a priority.

If you continue to struggle with sleep deprivation or any of its symptoms, please feel free to reach out so I can help you work through this and get back to feeling great.