Our contemporary lifestyle is incompatible with good sleeping habits on multiple levels. Some changes in our lifestyle occurred more than a century ago; others are more recent. A large 1960 survey found that people averaged between eight and almost nine hours of sleep a night, and National Sleep Foundation polls have found that Americans now get an average of only about 7 hours.
This significant decrease roughly parallels the increase in obesity over the last 50 years. In addition to certain medical or mental health issues (including pain and depression), here are four factors that can prevent you from getting a full night’s sleep:
Sleep Enemy #1: Ambient Noise
Living in an urban environment, or even in a suburban or rural area, perhaps near a firehouse or a stop sign, or close to night owls who blast heavy metal music from their stereo,can definitely interfere with sleep. If you have to sleep in a noisy environment, your best bet is to invest in a white noise machine. Studies have shown that the use of white noise devices improved the quality of sleep in hospital patients by more than 37 percent and in healthy adults by more than 67 percent, in both cases compared with a control group that didn’t use such devices.
Sleep Enemy #2: Stress
Ironically, the very devices that were supposed to free up time have actually robbed us of leisure time. Many people are chronically stressed because they feel incapable of handling all their responsibilities in their limited free time. Financial, health, and family concerns are also a source of stress. A 2014 study in the journal Sleep found that an inability to cope with stressful events was related to higher incidences of insomnia in a group of healthy adults. (These stress-reducing yoga poses can help get you in a more mellow state of mind.)
Sleep Enemy #3: Physical Inactivity
Research shows that sitting around all day can interfere with the body’s natural instinct to refuel at night. As we’ve moved from an industrial society to a data-driven one, most people sit down to do their jobs, which makes our bodies less primed for rest come bedtime. A survey by the non-profit National Sleep Foundation showed that just 10 minutes of exercise a day can improve the duration and quality of your sleep. Here are 8 easy ways to stay moving throughout your day.
Sleep Enemy #4: Electronic Devices
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 90 percent of Americans use their electronic devices in the hour before they go to sleep, but watching television or using a cellphone, computer, or tablet in bed is one of the prime offenders when it comes to diminished or compromised sleep. The “blue light” these devices emit is particularly problematic. One study published in the journal Applied Erognomics found that college students who used a tablet for two hours a night were found to have reduced their levels of sleep hormone melatonin by about 23 percent. Your move: Unplug at least two hours before you hit the sack.
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