I just read a statistic that truly shocked me. I hear all the time that we don´t sleep enough. An adult needs between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each day to function at full effectiveness, but we average about 6.1 hours a night. That was expected. I also wasn´t surprised to hear that people spent $3 billion in the U.S. alone on prescriptions for sleeping pills last year. The surprise came in the National Institutes of Health´s accounting of the cost to the American economy of our lack of sleep – $50 billion in lost productivity and $16 billion in health care costs. That´s staggering. Massive. Ridiculous.
Inspired by this information, I think we obviously need to do something about the sleep we are getting. We may not be able to save $50 billion, but getting our own sleeping habits in line certainly couldn´t hurt. All this week, then, we will be looking at ways to help us get to sleep faster, sleep better, and find more time to sleep. We´ll start with how to get to sleep faster:
1) Don´t go to bed until you´re tired — If you aren´t feeling like you are ready for sleep, then you won´t be able to fall asleep quickly. That means you´ll just lie there awake wishing you could sleep. The longer you lie awake, the harder it is to fall asleep. If you lie in bed without falling asleep you can develop a habit that makes it hard to fall asleep all the time. If your partner needs or wants to go to sleep early but you don´t feel tired stay up and do something else for a while until you feel like you are about to fall asleep.
2) Have a glass of milk — this sounds like one of those old wives tales, but a glass of milk, whether warm or not, can help you fall asleep. Milk has tryptophan in it, which is an amino acid which slows down the activity in your brain. There is lots of tryptophan in turkey, too, which is why you always want to have a nap after Thanksgiving dinner.
3) Don´t overuse your bed — Your bed is designed to be used for sleeping. And one or two other things, too, but that´s beyond the scope of what we cover here. It is not designed for doing work, or eating, or watching TV or reading. If you are having trouble sleeping, quit using your bed for anything other than those core "bed things´. If you are doing everything under the sun in your bed then your body doesn´t get in the habit of falling asleep when it hits the sheets.