In today’s fast-paced society, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is more than a little challenging. As a rule, people today are almost always on the go, always connected, and always on call. While it may seem like a natural conclusion that those conditions are a boon to economic productivity, there’s a pretty important thing that most of us overlook that threatens to make all of our extra work go to waste: sleep.
If there’s one thing in modern life that seems to be a near-universal constant, it’s that nobody is getting anywhere near enough sleep. In fact, according to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control in 2014, more than one-third of American adults reported regularly getting less than seven hours of sleep per night. That level of sleep deprivation can have disastrous consequences. Although most people don’t know it, some of the biggest accidents in recent memory have been attributable in part to a lack of sleep on the part of the principal participants, and countless billions of dollars in lost productivity.
Finding a way to get the right amount of sleep is one of the most important things any of us can do to make sure we’re always at our best. There are a number of factors that affect our ability to sleep comfortably, and knowing what they are is the key to getting the good night’s sleep that you need to thrive. Here’s what they are.
The human body is a complex machine. What you may not realize, though, is that almost all of the body’s metabolic processes are, in one way or another, cyclical. Generally speaking, we’re all on a roughly 24-hour cycle called the circadian rhythm that our body uses to carry out the necessary functions of life. Included in that cycle is our system of thermoregulation. That refers to the natural rise and fall of our body’s temperature throughout the day.
When we’re approaching night time, our bodies naturally cool to prepare us to sleep. In the morning, we warm again in preparation to get out of bed. As you might expect, sleeping in a warm environment fools the body into believing it’s time to wake up. To make sure that your body’s normal temperature rhythm doesn’t get short-circuited, it’s best to sleep in a room that’s between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, as it will help your body complete its preparations for sleep.
Although it should be obvious, another factor that can affect the length and quality of our sleep periods is the comfort. Most people these days turn to fancy mattresses and silk pillowcases to enhance their comfort at night, but that’s just a part of the equation. As it turns out, discovering your optimal sleep position can do wonders, too. The good news is that there aren’t too many to choose from.
Experts agree that sleeping on your side is usually the best option for getting a comfortable night’s sleep. If you find it necessary, place a pillow between your legs to reduce the pressure on your knees and back for even more comfort. If you find that you just don’t feel right on your side, don’t worry. It’s also acceptable to sleep on your back, although it won’t be as beneficial. Sleeping on your stomach isn’t recommended, however. When you do, there’s a greater chance of back and neck pain developing overnight, which will lead to restlessness.
There are some people that like to fall asleep with the television on, and others who never outgrew their childhood nightlight phase, but in reality, the human body needs darkness to sleep well. It isn’t even a matter of preference, as the presence of light while we sleep has a definite, measurable impact on our bodies, and it isn’t a good one. A study in 2013 found that light pollution during sleep cycles caused test subjects to experience shallow sleep, with an increase in restlessness and greater brainwave oscillations (that indicates consciousness). The bottom line is, if you need good sleep, you need absolute darkness.
If you take care to consider these factors when evaluating your sleep habits, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to get a more restful, consistent sleep. As a result, you’ll feel better, work better, and feel less stress than you otherwise would have. Of course, nobody can guarantee that their sleeping habits will be perfect all of the time, but the closer you get to an optimal environment and the more often you sleep in one the better off you’ll be as a whole. To all who have read this and are anxious to go get their first good night of sleep in a while, good night, good luck, and have a great tomorrow!