Chances are good that if you aren’t waking up feeling rested, you aren’t getting enough good quality sleep. Around 30% of adults in the US report getting 6 hours of sleep or less a night (1). Research shows the average adult needs 7-9 hours a night and that kids and teenagers need even more sleep!
Myth busted: There is a mentality that we can “catch up” on sleep lost throughout the week, but studies show that just isn’t the case. One study out of Harvard Medical School found reaction times and mental focus remain low even after a “catch up” night of 10 hours after 2 weeks of getting about 6 hours of sleep (3).
What to do about it
I always recommend that people start with the basics. Much like it is common knowledge that eating more vegetables is a healthy eating habit, there are healthy sleeping habits too. These habits help improve sleep quality and can help you get to sleep faster.
Healthy sleep habits
Going to sleep at the same time every night helps train your mind and body to get tired. Having the same bedtime routine is another way to wind down and prepare your mind and body for sleep. If you have been going to bed at variable times, and you suddenly initiate a bedtime, it can take a little while for your body to adjust. This is especially true if the bedtime you set for yourself is greater than 30 minutes earlier then when you usually go to bed.
Being consistent with what time you wake up can actually help you feel tired at night. This unfortunately includes weekends. I know it can feel like a sacrifice to give up sleeping in on weekends. However, sleeping in late on Sunday can interfere with you ability to fall asleep Sunday night which can make waking up Monday morning more difficult.
If you are consistently waking through the night because your partner is snoring, it might be worth trying to sleep in separate rooms or using ear plugs. Snoring can also be a sign of Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing is obstructed throughout the night. Not treating it increases risks of serious heart conditions, seek medical care if you suspect you have Sleep apnea.
Dark winter mornings
It can be difficult to wake up in the dark during the winter months. Sitting under a full spectrum light for about 30 minutes in the morning can be helpful. The full spectrum light in the morning helps reset your body’s circadian rhythm (internal 24 hour clock). Using a lightbox can improve morning alertness and also help you feel tired at night.
Dr. Cheatum and Dr. Doize are Naturopathic doctors writing about health topics from a holistic viewpoint.