Sleep is hard, especially in a world where people spend their time busy and stressed.
But not sleeping, in addition to making you less efficient and more stressed, is terrible for your health.
Americans currently average 6.8 hours of sleep per night, down an hour from 1942. Four in 10 Americans don’t even get the minimum of seven hours of sleep doctors recommend. That’s a public health emergency. Fatigue leads to short and long term problems with mental and physical health.
Here’s what the best research out there has to say about what you can do to help yourself fall asleep.
1. Dim the lights in your room
This might seem obvious, but it bears repeating: One of the worst things you can do for yourself at night is keep the lights on. Bright light — especially blue-ish light — tells your brain that it’s still daytime and prevents the release of chemicals critical for sleep, like melatonin. Harvard Medical School recommends using dim red lights in the evenings and, conversely, exposing yourself to bright lights during the day to help regulate your sleep schedule.
Sources: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Harvard Medical School
2. Put your phone away you monster
We’re getting to the surprises, we promise. But if we don’t get through these none of the other tips will work. Study after study has shown that watching a screen before bedtime is terrible for your sleep — whether it’s a TV screen, tablet, or phone. So if you want to fall asleep, step away from the pixels.
Sources: Pediatrics, Chronobiology International, Scientific American Mind, Sleep and Biological Rhythms
3. Kick your coffee habit
Coffee may help you deal with the symptoms of your sleep problems, but it also plays a role in causing them. Caffeine alters the melatonin levels in your brain, makes it take longer to fall asleep, and makes you sleep less — even if you aren’t drinking right before bed time.
Sources: Sleep Medicine, Brain Research
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