Yet, a habit as simple as not getting enough sleep is still having negative impacts for nearly one-third of all Americans, who report not getting enough sleep to feel rested. According to the CDC, not getting enough sleep increases your chances of having a chronic disease like diabetes, depression, hypertension or obesity.
Why are so many people getting so little sleep? Here are four reasons why you might be missing out on those nightly Zs.
1. You're too close to your phone
We're connected from the time we wake up in the morning until the moment we close our eyes at night. Do you check your phone as soon as your alarm goes off for missed emails or text messages?
Utilizing electronic devices, especially at night, is one of the big reasons why people have so much trouble sleeping. The problems caused by electronics can be broken down into two categories: Melatonin Suppression and Mental Stimulation.
- Melatonin Suppression: The blue light emitted by the screen tricks your brain into thinking that it's supposed to be awake, so in turn your brain reduces the amount of melatonin it produces. Melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone, is the key component that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Mental Stimulation: Something as simple as playing Angry Birds or checking your email might not seem very mentally stimulating, but it's enough to convince your brain that you should be awake. This will make it harder to fall asleep.
The best solution for this particular sleep problem is to keep your electronics out of the bedroom. If you use your phone to wake you up in the morning, consider investing in a good alarm clock and leaving your phone to charge in the kitchen or somewhere outside your sleeping area.
2. You're relying on stimulants to wake you up and depressants to knock you out
For most of us, caffeine is part of our daily lives. We drink coffee or tea in the morning, and soda or other caffeinated drinks throughout the day to keep us going. It even hides in the chocolate in that afternoon candy bar you may have picked up from the office vending machine.
While it can provide a quick pick-me-up, enjoying too much caffeine during the day can prevent you from falling asleep easily, staying asleep and even entering REM sleep, which is the most restful type of sleep.
You might think that alcohol, on the other hand, is a good way to ensure you get a good night's sleep. While it's true that alcohol is considered a depressant and can slow you down, the rest you get after having a few drinks is usually restless and broken. Alcohol has been shown to decrease the amount of REM sleep that you get, as well.
If you need to get a good night's sleep, consider skipping the night cap and try not to drink anything with caffeine between dinner time and when you finally bed down for the night.
3. You're only investing in your waking life
How long has it been since you changed your mattress? If it's been 5-10 years, your mattress could be negatively affecting the way you sleep.
Studies have definitively shown that the more comfortable you are, the better you're going to sleep. So why do so many people put up with uncomfortable mattresses when today's sleeping options are more suited to individual needs?
For example, CRaVE Mattress specializes in both innerspring and memory foam mattresses. If you're looking for a soft mattress, the innerspring would be what you want. On the other hand, if you need a firmer mattress, the memory foam option would provide more support. Oh yeah, and they'll deliver your new mattress right to your door - what could be more 21st century than that?
For many people, putting up with an old mattress comes down to cost. Purchasing a new mattress is not an inexpensive proposition if you want something that's going to be comfortable. Keep in mind, though, that you're purchasing something that's going to last you, at minimum, 10 years. A $1,000 price tag on a mattress doesn't look as intimidating when you break it down to $100 a year.
To think about it differently, consider how much money you'd spend on a car guaranteed to last you 10 years. The investments we make in our waking lives often get more attention because we're more engaged with them. But what you invest in your sleep can make all the difference, too.
4. Your career doesn't compliment your circadian rhythms
The world doesn't stop running at 5pm, so there are millions of people in hundreds of different industries that work outside the "normal" 9-5 business hours. This "shift work" has been shown to have a detrimental effect on the sleep patterns of a number of these workers.
Two of the three major nuclear meltdowns in the last 40 years, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, have been at least partially blamed on the sleepiness of shift workers, so that gives you a good idea of how serious a problem this can become.
Constantly changing shifts, or work shifts that fall outside of what your body considers to be its normal circadian rhythm has been shown to cause problems with attention, reaction time, mood and memory. People who do not adapt well to shift work are prone to insomnia, depression, fatigue and a variety of other symptoms.
There are several ways to make it easier to adapt to an odd or rotating schedule, such as utilizing stimulants (i.e. caffeine) to keep you awake and melatonin to help you reset your circadian rhythm and adapt to a new sleep schedule.
Unfortunately, there are some people who just cannot adapt to shift work. If you're one of those people, the only option might be to either find a different shift or a different job entirely.
Sleep is important for your mental and physical health, and far too many people in the country are not getting enough of it. If you feel like you're lacking sleep, take a look at your lifestyle and see if any of these four things might be affecting your sleep quality.