Are you struggling to get a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 30% of US adults say they typically get less than seven hours a night. A good night’s sleep is so important to our overall well-being and is especially for anyone battling cancer. Did you know that in addition to prolonged fatigue, missing just one night’s sleep can affect your long term memory? A recent MIT study shows that one bad night’s sleep can leave us with a 30% decline in mental sharpness. That fuzziness directly influences how well we are able to remember things long term.
According to Susumu Tonegawa, Professor of Biology and Neuroscience at MIT, “The sleeping brain must replay experiences like video clips before they are transformed from short-term into long-term memories… memory sequence during sleep plays a crucial role in the formation of a long-term memory.”
A lack of sleep can lead to other health problems, too. Insomnia leaves us feeling tired, on-edge and even more stressed out—all of which can have very negative effects on our health. Worrying about getting a good night’s sleep can compound the problem. And women have it way worse than men. Studies have shown that women tend to internalize worry and have hormone-related issues like peri-menopause and pregnancy that can interfere with sleep patterns. The result? Women are twice as likely to suffer from sleeplessness as men.
If your regular routine isn’t working and you need some proven ways to get a better night’s sleep, read on for six can’t-miss strategies to get you on your way to a better night’s sleep, better memory, and better health:
- Make a to-do list. If you lay in bed going over all the things you need to do the next day, your brain does not have a chance to slow down. Instead of reviewing your to-do list over and over in your head, write each one down on paper so you can let them go for the night.
- Designate a Sleep Zone: Sleep (ok, and sex) are the only things you should be doing in bed. Avoid reading, playing on the computer, or watching TV while you’re in bed because these activities keep your mind busy and can make sleep impossible. For best results, keep your bed a sleep (and sex) zone.
- Set a Time Limit. If you can’t fall asleep in 30 minutes, get up and take a warm bath or have a cup of decaffeinated tea. When you return to bed, try soothing tapes or white noise background like a fan running to help you relax and wind down.
- Avoid sleep aids if possible. Almost 9 million US adults take sleeping pills on a regular basis. Doctors warn, however, that care must be taken with these prescriptions. As described by Dr. John Noviasky, a SUNY University physician, “Just because they are popular and fairly easy to get does not make them a good first option.” Pills should be a last resort after all other techniques have been tried and should only be taken under doctor supervision.
- Make smart lifestyle choices. If you want to improve your sleep, be sure to get regular sunlight, avoid caffeine after 3 pm, and go to bed/get up at the same time each day. Also, be sure to get regular exercise, but never right before bedtime as it can energize you and actually keep you up.
- Get professional advice. See a doctor if the sleeplessness continues long term. You may have chronic insomnia if you have trouble falling asleep three nights a week or more. Chronic insomnia can be an indicator of other health concerns so it’s important to monitor your rest and seek help when needed.
We’ve all had a restless night or two but if your lack of sleep is wearing you down, maybe it’s time to consider a change to your routine. If you’re tired of being tired, kick insomnia to the curb with these six simple (and proven) tips for a more restful night’s sleep, better health and improved long-term memory.