Just how important is sleep? It has the power to change almost everything. Think about how you feel when you are sleep deprived, and imagine millions of other people going about their days feeling exactly the same way – driving their cars and making potentially life-changing decisions.
Pretty scary, right? But it happens. A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 30% of American workers are sleeping six hours or less each night, which equates to about 40 million sleep-deprived people.1
If everyone got enough sleep each night, there could be fewer accidents, fewer health issues, less irritability, more productivity, and as if that weren’t enough, there’s more. People who get enough sleep have a better memory, stronger immune systems, more focus, better relationships, and they tend to have better judgment and make healthier choices in general than people who are sleep deprived.2
Benefits of Better Sleep
Adequate sleep gives your body a chance to heal, strengthens immune health and results in a lower risk for many health concerns.
Better Memory & Focus
Your brain processes and stores memories while you sleep.3 Sleep is essential to cognitive health and mental performance.
If your mind and body are not performing at their best, your productivity may decline as well.
Since sleep affects mood and judgment, it also affects our relationships with other people and our ability to remain calm and think while emotions run high.
Better Food Choices
You might be more likely to experience cravings for unhealthy foods when you are tired as quick-fixes for low energy. Getting better sleep means having more awareness about your food choices.
Do People Get Used to Feeling Sleep Deprived?
If so many of us are getting too little sleep, you might wonder how we manage to get by. The answer is – barely. People who say they can function just as well on too little sleep may believe it, but reputable studies have shown that isn’t the case at all. They just don’t realize it, even when their performance is at its absolute worst. While people may get used to feeling tired every day and accept that as normal, they are accruing a sleep debt that affects their cognitive abilities.4
How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
How much sleep you need varies widely per individual and changes with age. You can never be too sure that you’re getting enough, so aim for the higher end of the recommended range if you can. Adults need between 7 to 9 hours a night. Sleeping less than 7 hours per night is associated with numerous health risks and impaired cognitive performance.5 Children and teens need even more – about 9 to 11 hours a night to support their developmental needs. And babies sleep between 16 to 18 hours every day.
Can Sleep Supplements Help You Sleep Better?
The time you spend in bed trying to sleep doesn’t always equate to the amount of sleep you get. Sleep quality is just as important as pillow-time. If you have trouble falling asleep or wake up a lot during the night, your natural rhythms and crucial sleep stages may be affected. There are supplements that may help you sleep better. We’ve listed our favorite sleep aid alternatives below.
Supplements for Sleep
- Melatonin Supplements help restore your circadian rhythm (sleep and wake cycles) while supporting your body with antioxidants
- Valerian Root promotes healthy mental relaxation so you can rest better
- 5-HTP Supplements provide sleep support and may encourage mental and emotional well-being
- Lemon Balm Supplements may enhance relaxation of the body and mind for more restorative rest
- Magnesium Supplements for Sleep may help relax muscles, reduce tension and calm the mind, supporting whole-body wellness and helping you get better rest
- Calcium helps aid the natural production of tryptophan and melatonin, which can help you get to sleep and stay asleep
- Essential Oils aromatherapy essential oils, like lavender, sandalwood, rose, chamomile, ylang ylang, and frankincense, may help promote relaxation and more restorative sleep6
How to Sleep Better: 10 Sleep Hacks for Everyone
Want to establish better sleeping habits? Here are 10 sleep hacks everyone can use to get a more restful night of sleep.
- Get in Sync: Get your body rhythms in sync by going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day, plus establishing a regular a nighttime routine. Start a healthy nighttime habit, like drinking a relaxing herbal tea for sleep or powering down electronics, to help cue your body that it's almost time for bed.
- Put Your Phone Down: Limit exposure to blue light from electronic devices, especially before bedtime, because it suppresses the natural production of melatonin.7 Also, blue light may negatively affect your eye health. Read more in About Blue Light and Eye Health.
- Skip the Booze: Having a nightcap might make you feel a little drowsy but it won’t help you sleep better. Alcohol consumption reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.8
- Exercise More: Getting enough activity in your day will help you sleep better at night, but don’t work out too close to bedtime or that post-workout high might keep you up. Looking for ways to move more, see Move More: How to Move More Each Day.
- Hydrate During the Day: Drink plenty of water during the day so you don't get thirsty during the night. Remember — drinking water too close to bedtime may mean midnight bathroom trips, so pause hydration a few hours before bedtime.
- Shower & Bathe Earlier: Don’t take a hot bath or shower within an hour of bedtime, so your body temperature has time to cool down again before you sleep.
- Limit Caffeine: Avoid caffeinated beverages after 3 p.m., or within 6 hours of when you plan to go to sleep, so the caffeine has plenty of time to leave your system.
- Say Oooom & Meditate: Meditation and deep breathing exercises can help calm your mind, promote relaxation and support stress reduction. Add yoga or meditation to your daily routine to help promote better sleep.
- Try Tart Cherry Juice & Tart Cherry Supplements: Tart cherries feature naturally occurring melatonin and anthocyanins to support healthy joints and help regulate your sleep and wake cycle.
- Consider Essential Oils & Sleep Supplements: Explore essential oils, like lavender, rose, chamomile and ylang ylang, to promote feelings of calmness and stress reduction. Try valerian root, magnesium, melatonin, and other sleep supplements and alternatives to support your sleep routine.
Better Sleep for Better Health and Wellbeing
Everyone misses a few zzzs from time to time, between busy schedules and responsibilities at home and work, but it’s important that poor sleeping habits don’t become a regular part of your life. Being tired all the time is not good for our health and wellbeing. Try to establish a consistent nighttime routine and practice daily habits that will help you get better rest since better sleep will help keep your body and mind healthier.
Do you have nightly rituals that help you sleep better? Share them in the comments below. Looking for more ways to relax, read Say Om: Six Tips to Help You Relax and Reduce Stress. And check out Magnesium for Sleep if you're looking for more about how to add magnesium to your sleep routine.
About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products
Lindsey is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for ice cream. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.
Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health Products.
1 Short Sleep Duration Among Workers in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6116a2.htm (Accessed 01/05/2018)
2 How is the body affected by sleep deprivation? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sleep/conditioninfo/sleep-deprivation (Accessed 01/05/2018)
3 About Sleep's Role in Memory. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3768102/ (Accessed 01/05/2018)
4 'Sleep Debts' Accrue When Nightly Sleep Totals Six Hours or Fewer; Penn Study Find People Respond Poorly, While Feeling Only 'Slightly' Tired. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/03/030314071202.htm (Accessed 01/05/2018)
5 Prevalence of Healthy Sleep Duration Among Adults. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6506a1.htm?s_cid=mm6506a1_w (Accessed 01/05/2018)
6 The use of aromasticks to help with sleep problems: A patient experience survey. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26850806 (Accessed 01/05/2018)
7 Blue light has a dark side. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side (Accessed 01/05/2018)
8 Alcohol and a Good Night's Sleep Don't Mix. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20130118/alcohol-sleep#1 (Accessed 01/05/2018)
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.