Story at a glance
- Sleep is closely tied to one’s mental and physical health.
- But about a third of Americans report getting less than seven hours per night.
- Here are four tips to optimize your sleep right now.
Sleep is closely tied to one’s mental and physical health, but about a third of Americans report getting less than seven hours per night — falling short of the recommended amount. Yet research shows there are ways a person can maximize the quality of their sleep.
A new study suggests Americans get the least amount of sleep around age 40 and generally nighttime sleep declines with increasing age.
Yet the study suggests Americans’ sleep efficiency — the time one is actually asleep compared to time carved out for sleep — also declines with age but tends to stabilize from age 30 to 60.
Here are four tips to optimize your sleep right now.
Close your blinds
People exposed to moderate amounts of ambient light while sleeping experienced an elevated heart rate the following day, according to a study from Northwestern University.
“Even though you are asleep, your autonomic nervous system is activated. That’s bad. Usually, your heart rate together with other cardiovascular parameters are lower at night and higher during the day,” Daniela Grimaldi, co-first author and research assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern, said at the time.
The research team also found links between light exposure and diabetes and obesity. People who slept with even dim light showed increased insulin resistance the morning after. Over time, this can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said this finding indicates light exposure at night impacts a person’s ability to regulate glucose.
Zee recommended keeping the lights off, avoiding blue light from screens and installing blackout curtains.
“If you’re able to see things really well, it’s probably too light,” Zee said.
Pandemic-related stress fueled a sharp rise in alcohol consumption, including binge drinking that rose 21 percent since the onset of COVID-19. Studies suggest this uptick could result in 100 additional deaths and 2,800 additional cases of liver failure by 2023.
But evidence shows alcohol use, especially before bedtime, carries with it its own potentially harmful effects.
Research published by National Institute of Health (NIH) shows alcohol use disrupts sleep both early and later in the night. And drinking before bed can also cause a delay in how soon one falls asleep.
The research additionally suggests abusing alcohol can lead to negative long-term outcomes, like lower slow wave sleep and more rapid eye movement sleep than normal. This could persist after quitting drinking and may play a role in relapse, the study said.
Sleep with a spouse or partner
People who sleep with a spouse or partner experience better results than those who sleep alone, University of Arizona researchers found in a new study. Those who sleep with a partner report less severe insomnia, less fatigue and more time asleep. It also helped them fall asleep faster and sleep longer than those sleeping alone.
Sleeping with a partner was also associated with lower depression, anxiety and stress scores.
Yet they found sharing a bed with one’s child led to worse sleep.
Researchers analyzed data collected in the Sleep and Health Activity, Diet, Environment, and Socialization (SHADES) study of 1,007 adults from southeastern Pennsylvania.
“Very few research studies explore this, but our findings suggest that whether we sleep alone or with a partner, family member, or pet may impact our sleep health,” senior author Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, said in a statement. “We were very surprised to find out just how important this could be.”
Sleep is vital to one’s health and so is consistency. Health professionals recommend establishing a routine each night to ensure the highest sleep quality possible.
People should aim to go to sleep at roughly the same time each night, avoid blue light, and when possible, sleep in a dark, cool and relaxing room.
Consistency also means waking up at the same time each morning — yes, that means weekends.
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