When a busy world pulls you in every direction, sleep can drop to the bottom of your priority list. It should be near the top. Lack of sleep can make everything else on your “to-do” list suffer, so a good night’s sleep is more important than you think.

How much sleep do you need?

Many of us would probably answer, “More than I’m getting now!” That is probably right. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Teens and children need even more. Infants and toddlers need anywhere from 12 to 18 hours of sleep a day, while older children should get 11 to 13 hours. Teenagers need at least 8 and a half hours of sleep.

Trouble sleeping?

We all have trouble falling asleep from time to time. Why? It might be “mind over matter.” Your brain needs time to unwind before it can drift off to dreamland. Try keeping a notebook by your bed to write down any last minute thoughts that keep you awake. For example, if you get into bed and suddenly remember you have to pay your rent tomorrow, write it down so you will not forget. Otherwise, you will be awake for another 20 minutes repeating to yourself, “I must pay the rent, I must pay the rent!”

Give your body and mind a chance to prepare for sleep. Turn the lights down low an hour before bedtime. Choose decaf over sugary or caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Do not stimulate your brain with too much technology, so turn off the television, put down the tablet and the fancy phone.

Exercise can help. If your job keeps you tied to a desk, your mind might be drained, but your body did not exhaust itself enough to need rest at night. A morning workout is a good way to get your blood flowing and start the day. Hopefully, by the end of the day, your body and mind have both worked hard enough to accept the rejuvenation a good night’s sleep brings.

Reserve your bed for sleep. Do not pop open your laptop in bed to finish some work from the office. If you reserve your bed for sleep, your body will eventually learn this is the place where it rests for the night.

How can I get more sleep?

That is the million dollar question. Sometimes there are not enough hours in the day to get all of our work done and all of the sleep we want. There are some things you can do to get more shut-eye:

  • Set a bedtime for yourself. It sounds silly, but it can work. If you have to get up for work at 7am, try to be in bed by 11pm every night. Try to sleep the same pattern on weekends. Sleeping until noon on Saturday throws off your body’s rhythm and can make you feel more tired than if you woke at 7am.
  • Take a nap. This may sound childish, but, as long as you do it efficiently, napping can help get you up to eight hours a day. Try to squeeze in a half hour nap in the early afternoon to make up for lost sleep. On the flip side, napping for several hours or after dinner can really throw off your sleep schedule.
  • Simply knowing when to call it a day helps you prepare for sleep. You need to realize that many tasks can wait until the next day.

For the health of it

Not getting enough sleep is linked to many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, and other health issues. The lack of sleep can make these issues more difficult to treat or manage.

When to ask for help

For some people, bedtime is the most dreaded time of day because they know they will face a fierce battle with sleep. If you have been told that you snore or stop breathing when you sleep, feel fatigued all day long, spend hours trying to fall asleep, or frequently wake up in the early morning and cannot get back to sleep, talk to your doctor. He or she can talk to you about different options, including medications, or other treatments and techniques to regulate your sleep patterns.


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