Getting Enough Sleep

Some people love to sleep and some feel like it’s a waste of time. Among college students, lack of sleep can be a bragging point, and some CEOs claim that short sleep cycles are what allow them to get more done. We talk about lack of sleep because it’s much more prevalent in our society than over-sleeping. According to a report by the CDC, over 1 in 3 American adults do not get enough sleep. If you fall into this category, there are steps you can take to help improve your chances of a good night’s sleep.

Getting Enough Sleep

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. That means if you take an action like making a purchase using my link, I may receive some compensation from the company at no extra charge to you. See more in my disclosures.

How Much Sleep is Enough?

According to the National Sleep Foundation:

Age Hours
Newborns 14-17
Infants 12-15
Toddlers 11-14
Preschoolers 10-13
School-Aged Children 9-11
Teenagers 8-10
Adults 7-9
Older Adults 7-8

Sleep needs vary according to age and from person to person. However a report by the National Sleep Foundation claims it is rare for people’s needs to fall outside of these guidelines. The report contains a stern warning, saying,

“Individuals who habitually sleep outside the normal range may be exhibiting signs or symptoms of serious health problems or, if done volitionally, may be compromising their health and well-being.”

Benefits of Sleeping Well

Stay Healthier

In a study published in Jama Internal Medicine, participants with fewer than the recommended hours of sleep were 3 times more likely to get sick than participants who received enough sleep. Lack of sleep is also linked to things like heart disease, inflammation and diabetes.

Improve Memory

Our brain is hard at work at night storing memories so sleeping instead of cramming for a test may be a better idea than you think.

Avoid Accidents

Studies have found that accidents are more likely to happen when the participants are sleep-deprived. Lack of sleep contributes to poor decision making as well as slower reflexes. This applies to everything from driving a car to working a shift job.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

A study at the University of Chicago found that lack of sleep can make you crave more calories. Dr. David Rapoport, director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program, says,

“Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain. When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite.”

Perform Better

Basketball players at Stanford University showed improved speed and accuracy when they got enough sleep. There have been similar findings for tennis players.

Feel Happier

Depression and sleep deprivation are linked and have a bidirectional relationship. This means that depression often causes poor sleep and poor sleep can lead to depression. The Journal of Sleep and Clinical Neuroscience have both published related studies. I noticed years ago that I am less happy if I don’t get enough sleep so it has helped me to make sleep more of a priority in my life.

Bidirectional relationship between poor sleep and depression

Natural Ways to Improve Sleep

Darken Your Room

Light naturally wakes us up. Making your room as dark as possible will help you to sleep better. Heavy curtains and sleep masks are popular choices for this. You could even go so far as to put a towel over electronics emitting light (such as a clock.) When my husband and I started working nights, we bought these room darkening curtains. We chose black, but they come in a large variety of colors.

Block Out Noises

Running a fan or a white noise machine can help hide the random sounds of the outdoors (or other family members!) There are many white noise apps you can download and they often free options while you can pay a small fee for the premium features. Earplugs are another cheap option for blocking unwanted noises.

Avoid Certain Foods and Tobacco

Stimulants like caffeine and tobacco tell your body to stay awake. For a good night’s sleep your last coffee should be 6-8 hours before bed. Alcohol also contributes to poor sleep. Alcohol may initially make it easier to fall asleep, but later in the night it is linked to frequent awakenings.

Keep a Cool Temperature

Adjusting your thermostat down to around 65 degrees could help you sleep better through the night. I also enjoy the extra cuddles I get if my husband is cold.

UPDATE 7/26/17: For the past few months we have been turning the temp in our house down every night. It has made an incredible difference in my sleep quality! When I wrote this post I would regularly be awake for a few hours during the middle of the night. Now I may briefly wake up and roll over, but I am able to get back to sleep again.

Exercise Regularly

Getting a healthy amount of exercise through the day also helps you sleep better. However, if it’s too close to bedtime the stimulation could keep you awake. Try to finish your exercise a few hours before bed.




Keep a Regular Schedule

Our bodies can be trained so if you are keeping a regular sleep/wake schedule, over time it will become a habit that your body helps promote.

Turn Off the Electronics

Blue light emitted by electronics disrupts melatonin production. The impact can be minimized with features such using “night shift” on your phone, which uses more yellow light than blue, but it is best to avoid electronics altogether.

Create a Nightly Routine

Often you may not want to go to sleep at the time you’ve set yourself. Creating a nightly routine can help with this, as it “sets the mood.” Some things you may include are:

• Brushing your teeth
• Washing your face
• Showering
• Reading
• Journaling
• Changing into pajamas
• Packing lunch for the following day

Starting these activities half an hour or an hour before your determined bedtime will help tell your body that it’s time to sleep.

Sleep Better

To Sleep or Not to Sleep?

In the world of sleep science, the habits surrounding sleep are called sleep hygiene. Habits are part of the story, but not the whole story. Some people who desperately want to sleep more find themselves awake due to health conditions or other factors. I myself often do not get the quality of sleep I’m hoping for, despite the fact that I usually allow enough time for it. I would benefit from blocking more light out of my room and cooling the house down at night. Would any of these habits help you?

4 comments

Great tips here!!! Pinned! 🙂

I’m glad you found them helpful, Kathryn! Thanks for sharing!

Sonyo Estavillo

This is a subject I was thinking of writing about next. Sleep is so important, I have insomnia and it makes going to bed a real challenge. I have to take meds. But, a sleep routine or evening routine is key for me. I now implement going to bed a little earlier than I would to read in bed because your mind associates it with activity vs rest. But, I still find it relaxing. 🙂

I like to read before bed, too. After researching this, I started turning the temperature down in our house overnight and it has made a world of difference for me!

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