Food, water, shelter—and sleep. Sleep rarely gets mentioned as a basic need since so many of us rarely prioritize sleep until it catches up with us. By nature, humans are not nocturnal. Yet ever since Edison and his opening of the first round-the-clock power plant in 1882, we have slowly transitioned into a 24-hour society—always accessible for work or play. Studies monitoring persons ages 25-54 with children have shown that Americans average 6.8 hours of sleep on weeknights. Most adults require 7 to 8 hours a night to be productive, although some people may need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day.
Sleep Fact: The human record for staying awake is 264 hours (11 days), and nobody has died as a result of sleep deprivation.
Signs you’re sleep deprived
Considering the broad hourly range of sleep needs, how do you know if you’re getting enough Z’s? Here are a few signs you may be sleep deprived:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to handle stress
- Reduced motor skills
- Vision problems
- Mood swings
- High blood pressure
- Poor decision making
- Increased appetite
- Poor memory
Sleep Fact: The National Sleep Foundation says you are too drowsy to drive safely if you:
– Have trouble keeping your eyes focused.
– Can’t stop yawning.
– Can’t remember driving the last few miles
You may be reading this thinking, “That’s all fine and good, but I still can’t seem to fall asleep (or stay asleep) to attain those crucial hours.”
Don’t worry, we’ve thought of that—here are some ideas and strategies to help you take action on your restlessness.
- Change your routine: If you’re not exercising, start. If you are exercising, plan your workout early in the day, rather than late in the day.
- Change your environment: Consider keeping TVs, smartphones and computers out of the bedroom.
- Stay away from caffeine past noon
- If you’re hooked on daytime naps, ditch ‘em
- Quit smoking
- Don’t gorge yourself before bed
- Go to bed at the same time every night
- Avoid eating, reading, or watching TV in bed
- Consider purchasing a white-noise generator to drown out any noise
Keeping a sleep diary for your doctor
Keep a sleep diary for a week or two and share it with your doctor—he or she may be able to spot red flags in your routine and suggest different sleep regimens or medications to treat sleep disorders. Talk with a doctor before trying over-the-counter sleep aids.