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How can you sleep better each night?

How can you sleep better each night?

Do you get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night? If you are like the majority of Americans, you do not. According to the 2013 International Bedroom Poll, Americans sleep an average of 6 hours and 31 minutes on work nights. The average sleep time needed to function best is just over 7 hours. Of those surveyed, only 44 percent said they sleep well almost every night.

Whether you stay up late watching your favorite shows on Netflix, have a demanding work schedule or simply have trouble falling and staying asleep, there are many factors that contribute to poor sleep habits. Insomnia and not getting the right amount of sleep each night can have serious effects on your overall well-being.

Common symptoms of sleep disturbance and related problems include irritability, constant tiredness, changes in appetite, habitual use of prescription sleep aids, loss of coordination and difficulty at work, school or in relationships. If you believe any of these symptoms describe you, check out these poor bedtime habits that may be the cause of your periodic sleeplessness: 

1. You're on your phone in bed
You've probably heard it before: You shouldn't be staring at your phone with the lights off before bed. It's tempting to check social media, text your friends or play on your apps, but your phone emits a blue light that halts your body's production of melatonin, which you need to fall asleep. To address this problem, sleep specialist Michael Breus told Self that he recommends an electronic device curfew an hour to an hour and a half before you fall asleep. If you cannot manage to shut off or stay away from your phone for this long, there are apps, settings and screen protectors that will filter out this blue light.

2. You don't exercise regularly
You should not only exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day to stay healthy, but to have better quality sleep as well. Studies indicate that people who exercise regularly generally sleep more deeply and wake more refreshed each day. Pay attention to when you choose to work out as well, as this could be impacting your sleep schedule. Either you get pumped up after you exercise or get tired. If you fall into the first camp, it's best to exercise in the morning. For those who wind down after a good exercise session, you should do so at night as it might help you fall asleep more easily.

3. You sleep late on weekends
It may be tempting to sleep late on the weekends to make up for those lost hours of shut eye during the week. However, Charles Czeisler, chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told CNN that he does not advocate for this approach. Czeisler referred to this approach as "sleep-binging" and says it can cause further disruption in your normal sleep cycle. 

For example, if you normally wake up at 7 a.m. during the week and sleep until noon or 1 p.m. on the weekends, your body will feel displaced from its normal routine. He calls this phenomenon as "social jet lag." Instead of sleep-binging, keep to your expert recommended seven to nine hours and spend time resting in bed after you wake up to feel ready for the day ahead. After all, it's more important to get REM sleep than more sleep. 

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