Irregular sleep shortens life expectancy. Here’s how to rescue yours

Category: News

During busy periods of life, sleep is often the first part of our routine that we sacrifice. But while the short-term effects of sleep loss – such as headaches and grogginess – are impossible to ignore, many people disregard the long-term effects that a lack of sleep can have on your health.

Recent research from New Scientist found that people who do not regularly get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep are at a higher risk of dying in the next seven years than those who do.

Sleep deficiency is linked to several health conditions, including kidney disease, strokes, and high blood pressure. Luckily, this problem is easy to fix. With a few simple changes to your habits, you can get your sleep schedule back on track.

Change your diet

What and when you eat has a huge impact on the quality of your sleep.

Firstly, you should stop eating at least two hours before bedtime. Digesting food signals that you are still awake, which prevents you from falling asleep. If you need to eat in the evenings, avoid large, fatty meals that are hard to digest and stick to a small snack instead.

As for what food you should eat, try to consume plenty of proteins and carbohydrates. And avoid coffee or energy drinks from the mid-afternoon, as caffeine takes several hours to wear off.

Exercise regularly

Exercise is beneficial for many aspects of your health. Not only can it help you fall asleep more quickly, but it can also counter the effects of unhealthy levels of sleep.

Exercise generates melatonin, the sleep hormone. This is what makes you feel tired during a workout and helps you fall asleep come time for bed. However, it’s important to leave yourself two hours to cool down after intense exercise, as it also wakes you up by increasing your blood pressure.

A lack of sleep can cause health problems like diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular issues. Regular exercise can improve your health, so you are less likely to succumb to these illnesses while you work on fixing your irregular sleep schedule.

Fix your circadian rhythm

The key to improving your sleep is to stick to a regular sleep routine. Your circadian rhythm acts as an “internal clock” and is what makes you feel sleepy in the evenings.

The easiest way to train your circadian rhythm is by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends. This will help you fall asleep faster and feel more awake and energetic in the mornings.

While this change to your schedule requires discipline and may seem difficult, the rewards of a better night’s rest is worth the effort. And if you find yourself feeling tired during the day while you are adjusting, top up your sleep with a 20-minute nap!

Use light to your advantage

Exposure to light can harm or help your sleep, depending on how you use it.

When your body is exposed to light, it stops producing melatonin. By spending time outside in the mornings or opening your curtains as soon as you wake up, you can kickstart your day and ensure you feel ready to tackle anything.

A REVOLV sleep study discovered that people who are exposed to more natural light during the day are rewarded with higher quality sleep and increased energy levels. Ensuring you spend time in the sun every day will also give you a dose of vitamin D, which is vital for your health.

On the other hand, exposure to light close to bedtime can keep you up at night.

Whether it’s artificial light emitted from your screens or a streetlight outside your window making it impossible to sleep, making your bedroom as dark as possible can help you drift off faster.

Cut stress from your life

Stress is one of the main factors that can keep you up at night. Whether you are worried about work, family, or finances, thoughts about the issues in your life can prevent you from drifting off and cause fragmented sleep.

Lack of sleep causes your body to release cortisol, the stress hormone. This makes you feel even more stressed and can hinder your attempts to sleep even further, trapping you in a vicious downward spiral.

Managing your stress by talking to someone or using relaxation techniques can help you get to sleep and break the cycle. If you are struggling, you can try:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Yoga

Additionally, sticking to a relaxing bedtime routine can remind your body that it is time to sleep. Making a cup of decaffeinated tea or taking a hot shower can help you wind down before bed so it’s easier to fall asleep.

Speak to your doctor

If you are struggling to sleep or suspect that you have any medical issues, speak to your doctor.

Underlying health conditions can cause insomnia or increase your stress levels. A professional will be able to identify the root of the problem so you can treat it and return to a healthy sleep schedule.