Feel like you"re tired all the time? You probably are, and you"re not alone. More than one-third of adults in America regularly don"t sleep the recommended seven hours per night. Not getting enough sleep can leave you feeling fatigued, unable to function at your best physically or mentally. It can even be dangerous to your health, putting you at higher risk for chronic conditions and accidents.
Sleep Deprivation is Dangerous
In a study of professional drivers, symptoms of sleep deprivation were reliable indicators of actual sleepiness and performance impairment. Drivers who are sleepy may:
- Struggle to keep their eyes open
- Have slower reactions
- Have difficulty maintaining correct speed
- Nod off behind the wheel
Drowsy driving is dangerous driving, and it puts you, your passengers, and others on the road at risk of death or injury. Being able to notice the symptoms of sleep deprivation while driving and during other situations can help you stay safe.
Sleep Deprivation Can Impair Mental and Emotional Function
You"re not just physically limited when you"re sleep deprived. Not getting enough sleep can also make thinking more challenging, and can even make emotional processing harder. A study of emotional expressions found that when sleep-deprived, participants were less able to recognize happy and sad emotions. Their accuracies when identifying dominant emotions in each facial expression was adversely affected after sleep deprivation. That means you can easily misread others when you"re not sleeping well, which can lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
What To Do if You Can"t Sleep
If you struggle with sleep deprivation, there are ways to improve the quality of your sleep. Better sleep hygiene, treatment, and a healthy lifestyle can make it easier to get a good night"s sleep.
- Stay on a consistent sleep schedule. Train your body to go to sleep and wake up at about the same time each night and day with a regular sleep schedule. Doing so can help you regulate your body"s internal clock, so it"s easier to get to bed on time.
- Create a bedtime routine. Going through the same relaxing activities each night before bed can help you wind down and send a signal to your brain that you"re ready to sleep. Brush your teeth, stretch, practice deep breathing, or go through other relaxation activities each night before bed.
- Get daily exercise. Exercise is generally helpful for sleep and can wear you out so you can get to bed. Spend time being active each day. It"s best to exercise early in the day or in the afternoon, as working out late in the evening can leave you feeling too energized to get to sleep.
- Be careful with naps. Napping can help you make up for lost sleep, but naps can also be the cause of lost sleep. If you need to take naps to get through the day, your timing should be strategic. Don"t nap after 3 p.m., and avoid napping for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
- Make sure your mattress is comfortable. The mattress you sleep on can influence the quality and quantity of your sleep. If yours isn"t cutting it anymore, it may be time to shop for a new one. Compare mattresses online before you commit to a particular model and take care to ensure that your bed is supportive, comfortable, and appropriate for your needs.