Did you find yourself yawning after lunch or starting to doze when you sit in traffic? These are symptoms of sleep deprivation. Occasionally feeling drowsy is normal. However, if you feel sleepy all the time or have trouble getting work done, it may be time to take another look at your sleep habits.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
If you want to boil it down to a number, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends seven to eight hours per night for adults 18 and over. However, everyone is unique. Some people may need more sleep to feel rested, and others need less. This number also refers to the number of hours that you sleep at night. If you’re sleeping six hours per night and sneaking in two half an hour naps, that doesn’t necessarily add up to seven hours of sleep. Naps don’t allow you to get the deep restorative sleep that you need because they are often too short.
If you’re a shift worker or caregiver, you should probably pay extra attention to your sleep habits. The body is designed to coordinate sleeping with the rising and setting of the sun. If you sleep during the day one day and then during the night the next, your body gets confused. It doesn’t know when to be sleepy or awake. Developing a system for getting enough sleep may be challenging for shift workers, but a healthy sleep schedule can make the difference between a good day and a bad one.
How Can You Tell if You’re Getting Enough Sleep?
Staying in bed for eight hours doesn’t guarantee that you are sleeping well. Many people struggle with waking during the night or being unable to fall asleep. In the short term, poor sleep quality is pretty typical. Many people have trouble sleeping before stressful events. However, if your lack of sleep starts to interfere with your daily life, it may be time to make changes. The symptoms of sleep deprivation can begin to seem normal over time, so check to see if you regularly have these symptoms of insomnia:
Feeling tired all day
Feeling more irritable or anxious
Struggling to pay attention and focus
Making mistakes at work or home
Constantly worrying about sleep
Surprisingly, sleeping too much can also be an indicator that your sleep habits need work. Your sleep quality may be poor, even if the quantity is enough. If you consistently sleep more than eight hours per night and still feel tired, you may want to see a doctor to rule out a sleep disorder.
How Can You Improve Your Sleep Quality and Quantity?
If you think you’re sleep deprived, it’s okay. You can improve your sleep with simple lifestyle changes. The first recommendation is to set a consistent sleep-wake schedule. If you go to bed at the same time each night, your body will learn to feel sleepy at that time. It will also learn to start waking you up at the same time each morning. When you shift sleep schedules, like going to bed later on the weekends, it confuses this process. You may feel sleepy or awake at the wrong times, so try to stay consistent.
Adjusting to a new bedtime may take a couple of days, but the transition may be easier if you start doing relaxing activities before bed. Meditating, yoga, taking a bath and reading in bed are all activities that may help you rest. Watching TV, unfortunately, should be avoided because the blue light of the screen may convince your brain that it’s time to be awake instead of sleeping. Unplug a couple of hours before bed to adjust to your new sleep-wake schedule.
Once you are regularly falling asleep at the same time, your next step is to minimize disruptions during the night. Squeaky beds, nightlights, and discomfort can keep you awake. Your mattress should help to align your spine as you sleep. If you are a side sleeper, like the majority of people, this means that the bed should sink around your hips and shoulders but still support your body. Noises and lights can be as distracting as discomfort, so try to reduce them. Blackout curtains can dim outdoor light, and a white noise machine can cancel out annoying sounds.
For many people, relieving sleep deprivation is a matter of changing their sleep habits. By taking steps to improve yours, you may start feeling more awake and focused during the day.