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While there is no "hack" for sleep, we can do better

We sleep an hour less than we used to in America. 30% of our time should be spent sleeping. There are consequences that caffeine cannot solve. While willing oneself to sleep often has the opposite effect, we can do a better job of relaxing and dictating conditions that encourage good rest, and the rest will take care of itself.

By nature, our bodies respond to sunlight--it cues us on when to feel tired and when to wake up. But it's been a while since we toiled outside all of the light hours and were also able to sleep in solitude all of the dark ones. Our need for sleep and the conditions under which we achieve it, unfortunately, have not changed. Adults still need around 8 hours of virtually uninterrupted sleep to function at our best. No matter what your uncle from the Navy SEALS told you, the body does not adapt to sleep deprivation, even if you learn to make your eyes stay open.

The Consequences

If we aren't getting enough uninterrupted sleep we suffer some of these ill effects: inflammation, stress and irritability, lowered attention span and lessened motor control are some of the ill effect. Since sleep is a time of physical and mental repair, illnesses can be prolonged and the immune system compromised in times of sleep debt.

The Cure

Relax with a Routine

You need a routine. Ease into sleep with meditation, a warm shower or herb tea a couple of hours before bed. You should generally try to sleep the same hours on weekends as weekdays.

Kill The light

According to the Harvard Medical School Newsletter blue light, the kind emitted by most modern electronics and energy efficient bulbs, tricks the body out of its normal rhythms and suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. Researchers have noted for years that night shift workers are more likely to get certain cancers. Try some of these light killers:

  • Sleeping mask
  • Red night lights (red light is not as disruptive as blue)
  • Tape over blinking lights
  • Black-out curtains

Stop tossing and turning.

According to Michael Decker, PhD, RN, associate professor at Georgia State University and spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, mattresses are important to quality sleep. When many people wake up too often, their old mattress is to blame.

One way that your mattress affects your sleep has to do with the network of fine blood vessels, called capillaries, that runs underneath your skin. If a mattress creates pressure points your skin can be deprived of oxygen and nutrients. When this happens, you respond by rolling over. Every time you roll over you pop out of sleep even if you don't remember it.

Decker recommends that people should find a mattress that especially supports the hips and shoulders. If there's any discomfort after a few minutes, find another one.

BEDZZZ Express owner, Keith Krininger, notes that side sleeping seems to be gaining popularity as studies continue to show its relative health benefits. Side sleepers can achieve a neutral spine with some of these soft top layer and supportive base options:

*Bedzzz Express gives a 90-day comfort guarantee. After all, it may take a few weeks to break in new habits and evaluate.

You should get to work right away on creating a better sleep pattern. . . unless it is after 10p.m. in which case you are better off powering down and sleeping on it.

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