5 Tips for Getting a Better Night's Sleep

The song by The 5th Dimension says it all: “Last night I didn’t get to sleep at all, no, no. I lay awake and watched until the mornin’ light washed away the darkness of the lonely night.” I know just how they feel, and recent research would indicate that a vast number of Americans do, too.

Sleepless nights, it seems, are becoming a regular gig. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia each year. And such sleeplessness can have a devastating impact on our productivity.

Brent Scott, who headed up a sleep research project at the University of Florida, found that a poor night of sleep can actually impact how satisfied workers are with their jobs. And a poll by the National Sleep Foundation concluded that 40 percent of Americans are sleeping fewer than seven hours a night during the workweek. In addition, 75 percent of those surveyed reported problems sleeping a few nights a week, often resulting in missed workdays and errors on the job, among other things.

All this lack of zzzzs will be on the minds of scientists, psychologists and sleep experts this week, as it’s National Sleep Awareness Week, an annual public education and awareness campaign from the National Sleep Foundation that runs through March 13th and coincides with the release of its yearly report on sleep. Last year’s poll results showed that 30 percent of Americans were losing sleep over the U.S. economy.

This year, the report focuses on sleep and ethnicity in America, exploring the significant differences among the sleep habits and attitudes of Asians, Blacks/African-Americans, Hispanics and Whites. It’s the organization’s first poll dedicated to exploring the sleep practices of different ethnic groups; to that end it aimed to answer the following questions:

  • Do different ethnic groups sleep differently?
  • Do attitudes about sleep vary among African-Americans, Whites, Hispanics and Asian-Americans?
  • Do work schedules and finances impact sleep equally in all groups?
  • Do sleep habits affect marital satisfaction or job performance?
More than three-fourths of respondents from each ethnic group agreed that poor sleep is associated with health problems (76-83 percent). These new findings echo lessons learned by former President Bill Clinton, who recently admitted that he has adopted a new lifestyle regimen to sleep seven or more hours on the advice of his doctors.

“The Sleep in America™ poll is a springboard for research,” says Thomas Balkin, Ph.D., Chairman of the National Sleep Foundation. “This year’s poll, in particular, will provide compelling insights into our current beliefs and behaviors regarding sleep, health and well-being.”

As for what a sleep-deprived individual can do, many of the tried and true sleep solutions offered by such organizations as the National Sleep Foundation seem to be just what the doctor ordered for a good night’s rest.

According to the experts, here are five ways you can perk up your productivity by getting a good night’s sleep.

  1. Go to sleep the same time every night. Having an established routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps your body set a natural alarm clock for falling asleep.
  2. Sleep in the dark. Nightlights, open curtains, bright blue alarm screens and even laptop lights can keep you up. Your body has the best chance of getting and staying asleep in relatively total darkness.
  3. Don’t drink before bed. Drinking caffeinated coffee, tea or soft drinks late in the day can cause a delay in getting to sleep.
  4. Avoid certain foods after 8 p.m. Stay away from sugary foods later in the evening and, instead, try foods that have the amino acid tryptophan in them, such as bananas, sunflower seeds and low-fat yogurt.
  5. Try a little white noise or waterfalls. Many people find the sound of nature (waves lapping, birds singing, rain falling) a soothing way to fall asleep. White noise has also been known to lull many a cranky web worker into a restful state.

While the gremlins of your problems may have you tossing and turning from time to time, regular sound sleep can often be achieved by developing good habits both in and out of bed. Tonight, turn off the TV, grab yourself a glass of warm milk, listen to a soothing CD, close the curtains and get yourself a good night’s rest.

Share your tips for getting a better night’s sleep below.

Photo by Flickr user kaibara87, licensed under CC BY 2.0