If you’ve ever said, “I can sleep when I’m dead,” you may want to read this.

Anyone who has stayed up all night or had a long weekend knows being tired can slow us down. But, the truth is, many of us, if not the majority, aren’t ever getting enough sleep and it’s taking a serious toll on our health.

According to the CDC, more than 1 in 3 Americans are not getting at least 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, which is the recommended amount for optimal health and well-being for adults aged 18-60 years old.

What’s the Big Deal?

You may be tempted to think, “So, everyone’s a little sleepy. What’s the big deal?” Dr. Travis Bradberry had a lot to say about that in a recent article. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
  • It wreaks on your immune system, it also makes you look older, because cortisol breaks down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.
  • It slows your ability to process information and problem solve, kills your creativity, and catapults your stress levels and emotional reactivity.

In another article, Dr. Robb Wolf points out that people without enough sleep have reaction times and decision-making impairments comparable to someone who is over the legal limit from alcohol. As a company that has a lot of people who work with some serious machinery and move tons of steel over their heads, that sentence should make you sit up and take notice. A lack of sleep can do some serious, even fatal, damage.

What to Do

According to Dr. Bradberry, there are several things we can do to help us all get more sleep. Here’s an abbreviated list:

  • Stay away from sleeping pills or any other man-made product that claims to help you fall asleep. All substances do is make you unconscious. They don’t give you the restorative power of natural sleep.
  • Stop drinking caffeine in the second half of your day.
  • Avoid blue light at night, which includes anything with a screen like laptops, TV and mobile phones.
  • Wake up at the same time every day to help your body develop a natural rhythm and tell you when it’s ready for bed.
  • Avoid binge sleeping on the weekend. While we may feel like that’s where we can “catch up” on sleep, it’s actually counterproductive because it messes up that rhythm we were just talking about.

Another tip…sleep in a dark room. Your body actually responds to light, even when you’re asleep, and doesn’t do it’s restorative work as well as it can when it’s not sleeping in the dark. So, don’t sleep with the lights on, turn off the TV, and if you work the third shift, do whatever you can to make your room as dark as possible.

Regardless of how you do it, finding a way to get more sleep will help you feel better, live healthier and think more clearly. Time to hit the sack!