By Rebecca Scritchfield for U.S. News Health
It's 1 a.m. on a Tuesday, and you're awake, sluggishly trying to finish every last item on your jam-packed to-do list. Sound familiar? You're not alone. Sixty-three percent of adults report that getting enough sleep is extremely or very important to them, but only 30 percent say they are doing a very good job achieving this goal, according to an American Psychological Association survey. In fact, and on average, American adults get only 6.7 hours of sleep per night.
These statistics are exactly why I created a 30-Day Sleep Challenge for the month of June. I'm challenging you to improve the quantity and quality of your rest, so you can be your best, healthiest self.
Sleep is often neglected in favor of getting more done, which almost always backfires. When you're sleep-deprived, you're less productive, more irritable and you often have too little energy for healthy eating and exercise that day.
If you habitually get too little sleep, your health could be in real trouble. Sleep is the time when your body recuperates and rebuilds from the day's stress. Imagine how much happier and healthier you could be with an additional 60 to 90 minutes of sleep each night.
What's keeping so many people up at night? Stress. It's the No. 1 reason people don't get enough sleep, according to the APA survey. Forty-three percent of people report lying awake at night because they feel stressed. We have too much to do and not enough time to do it, and instead of respecting the boundaries of our rest time, we take precious minutes (and even hours) from our sleep to worry about what didn't get done.
If you're stuck counting sheep, unable to fall asleep, try these healthy remedies:
Make a list. If your mind is racing with all the things you have to do the next day, get them down on paper. This can help you move on and get your much-needed rest.
Drink a cup of warm milk, chamomile tea or tart cherry juice -– each can positively influence your sleep patterns.
Eat magnesium-rich foods like almonds, and calcium-rich foods such as cheese and crackers, which help your body use tryptophan and serotonin to get sleepy. You can also learn more about sleep producing foods by visiting my blog.
Leave your phone and other screens turned off. The glow can interfere with your body's production of melatonin, which is a hormone that makes us feel sleepy.
Don't lie awake staring at the ceiling for too long. If you’ve been awake for more than 30 minutes, get up and either get a glass of water, walk around the room or gently stretch. Doing so can help interrupt the "I can't sleep" pattern.
Hide your clock. The last thing you need to do is count every passing minute that you're awake. If you need an alarm clock to get up in the morning, just turn it around so you can't see the clock face at night.
One of the best things you can do for your health is create a better sleep routine. These are tips to help establish a healthy, long-term sleep pattern:
Set sleep boundaries and stick to them. Allot at least eight hours for sleep every night. Don't stay up late or set your alarm extra early just to knock out a few extra to-do items. The more rest you get, the more productive you'll be during waking hours.
Give yourself a bedtime, and go to bed at that time every night. Our bodies become accustomed to the routine, and eventually you'll fall asleep faster.
Don’t work, watch TV, email, text or look at social media from bed. Your bed should be for two things only: sleep and sex.
Keep screens out of the bedroom, or at least away from the bed.
For my #30daysleepchallenge, I encourage you to improve your sleep habits so you can be ready for whatever life throws at you on a daily basis –- physically, mentally and emotionally. I'm posting tons of tips and information on my blog, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to help you get better sleep. We've already been going for a while, but you can join in at any time! Be sure to share your thoughts, and I'll be responding to your questions every day.