If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, you’re not alone. Check out these facts and tips for better sleep.
Tip 1. An estimated 50-70 million U.S. adults do not get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Tip 2. When your brain is sleep-deprived, you make more mistakes, your judgment is poorer and you have difficulty making decisions, says a 2011 study in the journal Nature. The reason is “neuron catnaps”: when you are sleepy, some of the cells in your brain that send messages nod off throughout the day as they do during sleep.
Tip 3. If you sleep poorly once or twice a week, you can make up for it. But after more than a few sleepless nights, it becomes harder to “recover” from lost sleep, says new research from Penn State.
Tip 4. Skimping on sleep can compromise your immune system, according to one study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Study participants who got only 4 hours of sleep each night for a week produced half the number of flu-fighting antibodies after being administered a flu vaccine compared to participants who slept for 7½ to 8½ hours each night.
Tip 5. Researchers at Cornell University found that one night of sleep deprivation may cause your skin to lose elasticity, firmness and moisture, and make fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable. It does this by triggering the immune system to release molecules that make it easier for dirt and UV rays to penetrate your skin.
Tip 6. In a small study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that when dieters slept 5½ hours a night for two weeks, they burned less fat and more muscle than those who slept 8½ hours. Other research shows that sleeping less than 5 hours per night may cause weight gain to settle around your midsection. Cortisol secretion (the stress hormone linked to belly-fat accumulation) is at its lowest at night, but sleep loss boosts cortisol the day after a night of poor sleep.
Tip 7. Some research has found that exercising less than 3 hours before bedtime lowers sleep quality, but it doesn’t prevent you from falling asleep.
Tip 8. “As night begins, your body temperature falls and reaches its coolest after you go to bed. So if it’s hot and humid and you can’t cool down you won’t sleep well,” says Daniel McNally, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center.
Tip 9. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is best to avoid large meals late at night as a large meal can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep.
Tip 10. Because alcohol is a sedative, drinking alcoholic beverages may help you fall asleep, but as little as two drinks can cause you to sleep less restfully and wake up more frequently. Alcohol-related sleep disturbances are worse for women, say researchers at the University of Michigan.
Tip 11. According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, light from computer and smartphone screens may suppress production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness. Artificial light also shifts your circadian rhythms—a biological cycle that responds primarily to daylight and darkness and influences sleep.
Tip 12. One two-year study of more than 10,000 middle-aged men and women found that sleeping less than 6 hours per night (or more than 9) was linked with feeling sad and anxious. Too little sleep may cause changes in brain chemicals that fuel depression.
Tip 13. Research has found that middle-aged adults who regularly sleep less than 6 hours a night are almost doubling their risk of developing high blood pressure compared to those that sleep the recommended 7-8 hours per night.
Tip 14. A recent study out of Harvard shows if you’ve missed an hour or two of sleep, you’re more likely to give in to junk food the next day. The prefrontal cortex—part of the brain responsible for self-control—is compromised by sleep loss.
Tip 15. Research indicates that even one night of low-quality sleep (i.e., restless sleep) or low-quantity sleep (less than 6 hours) can cause an increase in insulin resistance, a major contributor to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Tip 16. Habitually skimping on sleep may increase your risk for heart disease. In one study, researchers observed elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP)—an indicator of heart disease—in women who slept 5 or fewer hours compared to those who slept 9 or more hours.
Tip 17. With prolonged sleep deprivation, hallucinations may develop. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, sleep allows the neurons you use while you’re awake a chance to shut down and repair themselves. Without sleep, neurons may become so impaired that they begin to malfunction.
Tip 18. Vitamin B6 is needed to make melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness, according to an article published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Tip 19. In a small study, melatonin-rich tart cherry juice was shown to aid sleep. When adults with chronic insomnia drank a cup of tart cherry juice twice a day they experienced some relief in the severity of their insomnia.
Tip 20. A deficiency of calcium (found in dairy products, kale, broccoli) may make it difficult to fall asleep; consuming too little magnesium (found in whole grains and nuts) may make it harder to stay asleep, reported the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.