Need a better night’s sleep? Don’t delay the problem with sugary energy drinks—get to the root of it. We talked to Dr. Emerson Wickwire, Director of the Insomnia Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, for some sleep tips.
The Number One Cause of Fatigue
The single most reason why people are tired, worn down, and lacking energy is because they’re not getting enough sleep. Nutritional deficiencies and medical illness can certainly contribute, but the single biggest reason is that you’re not catching enough shut eye.
How Much Sleep You Really Need
The average adult needs about 7-7.5 hours of sleep. But one of the challenges of determining how much sleep we need is that humans are notoriously bad at recognizing when they’re feeling sleep deprived. In other words, you think you’re functioning just fine – even when you’re not.
Tips to Get More Sleep
There are only three ways to get more sleep. Go to bed earlier, sleep in later, or take naps during the day. For most working women, taking naps during the day is very difficult. That only leaves going to bed earlier or sleeping in later. Be mindful of how much time you are allocating for sleep.
Why More Sleep Might Not Be the Answer
If you’re getting a sufficient amount of sleep, but still don’t feel rested there may be a different issue. It’s not always the quantity of our sleep, but the quality of our sleep that matters most. In fact, patients are often surprised when sleep treatments begin with improving sleep quality first, then focusing on sleep quantity. Disorders like sleep apnea interfere with breathing, and many working women are at risk for chronic insomnia.
Insomnia is when you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. A good rule of thumb is that if it takes you 30 minutes or more to fall asleep, or if you’re awake for 30 minutes or more during the night, you may be at risk. Common daytime signs include feeling tired, stressed, or irritable during the day, among others.
How to Handle Insomnia
If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, there are a few simple things you can do. First, create a sacred space for sleep – your bedroom should be cool, dark, quiet, and free from visual clutter. Second, think DUSK. Develop and implement a soothing bedtime wind-down routine, a ritual to help prepare the body and mind for sleep. Finally, maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule and avoid all daytime activities – including thinking and planning – during your prescribed sleep period. There’s a lot more to it, but this will get you on the right track.
When to Ask for Help
If you’re asking, “Do I need to talk to a professional?” then the answer is almost certainly yes, you do! Remember that disturbed sleep can lead to other negative consequences down the road – it’s a reliable warning sign for depression, cognitive decline, or weight gain, so get it checked out now.
Call to Action
Sleep does a body good. If you’re unsure about the quantity or quality of your sleep, set aside two weeks and commit to at least eight or nine hours in bed. At the end of two weeks, you’ll have a much better sense of how much sleep you need and how much better you feel when well-rested.
Women experience many sleep difficulties, particularly insomnia related sleep difficulties, at about twice the rate of men.
Dr. Emerson Wickwire, Director of the Insomnia Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine