The new Sleep In America Poll came out today, the first day of National Sleep Awareness Week 2011.
This poll was all about our use of technology during the hour before bed, our nightly sleep, and daytime function. Here are some of the highlights:
– 63% say that during the week their sleep needs are not met
– 60% say they have a sleep problem almost every night
– 95% of us use technology during the hour before bed a few nights a week or more
– 20% of 13-29 year olds say they are awoken by a text, phone call or email several nights a week
-22% of 13-18 year olds are clinically sleepy
– About 10% of 13-45 year olds say they drive drowsy 1-2 times a week
Even the light from your TV or laptop is enough to suppress melatonin. During the hour before bed your melatonin should be increasing, allowing you to become sleepy and fall to sleep easily. The time for bright light is in the morning to get energized.
Think about what a cave is like . . . dark, cool, quiet, and did I say dark? For the best sleep, a cave-like bedroom is ideal.
People sleep best in a cool room, no warmer than 65 degrees. Keep bedcovers in light layers that can easily be adjusted so you avoid getting too hot.
Keep the room quiet. If there are intermittent sounds you just can’t avoid, then use a soft sound machine through the night.
Dark makes all the difference in sleep. Melatonin which is so important for falling asleep is suppressed by light. Unfortunately in most urban settings there is so much light polution that it’s difficult to make the bedroom dark. Use black out shades to block outside light, then turn off all nightlights and electronic LEDs in the bedroom.
Making these simple changes to the bedroom can make a real improvement in your sleep.
Over the centuries, and from place to place throughout the world, sleep environments have varied widely. I once attended a presentation on sleep environments in other cultures. The most striking was in a nomadic culture. The women sleep squatting down, with their skirts stretched tightly across their knees. Their babies sleep on their skirts so as to be safe from the many poisonous snakes in the area.
Fortunately we are able to organize our sleeping place to be the best it can be. We can usually minimize stimuli that interrupt sleep. Below are some tips you can use at home, with the reasoning behind each.
Creating a healthy sleep space at home:
Doing most of these items will take 10 minutes or less – the result can be a more restful night!
– Move your clock from the head of your bed. Place it across the room where it cannot be seen from your pillow. Sleep comes easier if you are not thinking about the time, or how much time you have left to sleep!
– Find someplace else for your pets to sleep. Of all my recommendations this is sometimes the hardest for people to do because they love their pets. I love my pet too, but the fact is that the pets can be waking you up in the night, and leaving you less refreshed the next day.
– Sleep in the same bed each night. As we cycle through the five sleep stages each night we hit Stage 1 sleep every hour and a half or so. At that time people frequently sit up, adjust the covers, scan the room for anything that needs attention, then lie back down. If you are in an unusual room it may take longer to make sure the room is safe and return to sleep.
– Make the room as dark as possible. Even the light from a night-light or clock is enough to interfere with your natural melatonin rhythm.
– Wash your bedding regularly to minimize any allergic reaction to dust and dust mites. Sheets and pillowcases should be washed weekly; pillows, blankets and mattress covers washed at least every quarter; and pillows replaced every two years.
– Remove any workstations from your bedroom. This includes computers, TV, sewing or any other hobbies. Having these activities in your bedroom conditions you to be active and alert in the bedroom instead of relaxed and asleep.