Sleeping too little does more than give us bloodshot eyes and the grumpies. It can make us more accident-prone, reduce our cognitive ability and sap our sex drive.
We know all of this, yet we still run on empty, failing to log adequate amounts of shuteye, day in, day out. Luckily, with a few tweaks to our daily routines, we can relatively easily improve our sleep schedules and boost everything from our stress management to our ability to think on the fly.
Start with the seven below. Trust us, they beat counting sheep.
1. Don’t hit the snooze button.
As tempting as it might be, it doesn’t do a body good. If you’re a snooze button tapper – even if only you hit the button only once before rising and shining – research shows that you’re making your get-out-of-bed process even tougher. Nodding off after waking up throws your body’s natural sleep rhythm out of whack. Snoozing feels nice at first, but, in the end, it’ll only make you feel hungover. Skip it, sleepyhead, and wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (whatever that means).
For more: Press Snooze? You Lose.
2. Fix Your Workspace.
Everything from gazing at a computer screen, to your office’s soul-sucking artificial lighting can impact your sleep quality. Take control throughout the day by routinely stepping outside and into natural sunlight. You might even ask to have your desk placed 25 feet from a window. You’ll feel more alert and be more productive. Wouldn’t that be nice?
3. Nap like a pro.
Naps aren’t just for babies. Adults need them, too. Today a number of businesses view sleeping on the job as a good thing, offering cushy nap rooms and even posh “Energy Pods” for weary workers. On the at-work siesta bandwagon are big-name companies like The Huffington Post, Google, Ben & Jerry’s and Zappos, and the list grows every day. Even if your company doesn’t offer that sort of perk, listen to your body outside of work and rest when you need it. Just be sure the room is dark, cool and quiet and take no more than 20 minutes.
For more: Why You Should Learn to Nap Like a Pro
4. Conquer stress.
Anxiousness, racing thoughts and an increased heart rate can wreak havoc on our sleep patterns, creating a vicious cycle that only leaves us more stressed out. To stop stress from sapping your sleep, try a few calming techniques before bed, like breathing deeply, listening to relaxing music and meditating.
5. Don’t drink before bed.
By this we mean booze and buzzy beans (coffee). Caffeinated drinks, like coffee and non-herbal tea, disturb your body’s natural sleep cycle, so it’s best to avoid them before bed. For some, that means abstaining for up to eight to 10 hours before lights-out. Known for its sedative effects, alcohol is equally bad for sleep. The drowsiness-inducing diuretic might help you fall asleep faster, but it can also have you visiting the bathroom several times a night, knocking you out of deep, restorative REM cycles. Moral of this bedtime story: Ban booze before bed.
6. Lay off electronics before bed.
Frequently, our bedrooms are less places of peace, sleep and rest and more zombie zones where we scan bug-eyed at emails that could wait until tomorrow. Sleep researchers have found that the glow emitted from electronic screens big and small mess with our body’s circadian clock (the system that regulates sleep), suppressing melatonin and, you guessed it, keeping us awake longer. Get the gadgets out of your room and get some sleep.
7. Know how much sleep you need.
You’d think this would be a given, but it’s not. Some of us don’t know our elusive magic sleep number. Thankfully the National Sleep Foundation thinks it has this age-old mystery figured out. Eight hours of sleep each day should do the trick for teens, adults and seniors, but some people require more or less. If you listen to your body and rest when you are tired, you should clock enough zzzzs. Rinse, repeat and adjust your sleep schedule accordingly.