According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one in three adults is sleep deprived, and some people feel that number is too low. Regardless of the actual percentage, the world is facing an epidemic of sleep deprivation. Some lost sleep may seem like a small matter, but getting too little sleep has serious health consequences. Our bodies flush toxins from our brains while we sleep, and skipping out on the shut-eye allows those toxins to build up. This can cause numerous problems including brain inflammation.

Anyone who has gone several nights without sleep will be familiar with the common symptoms of sleep deprivation: irritability, lack of concentration and difficulty remembering or recalling information. Lack of sleep can also lead to more physical symptoms such as headaches, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease. In acute or chronic cases, the sleep deprivation associated with insomnia has been known to cause hallucination. Given the long list of negative effects, it is perhaps no surprise that sleep deprivation can be equated to intoxication. In fact, after 17 hours without sleep, a person’s response speed and accuracy are equitable to those of a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent. Unfortunately, many people spend 17 or more hours awake at a time for a variety of reasons including staying up late to continue studying or working, cultural norms that equate lost sleep with a high work ethic and undiagnosed sleep disorders.

Sleep itself is still only moderately understood, but its importance cannot be overstated. So, in a world of sleeplessness, how can a person get a good night’s sleep?

Consistent Sleep and Wake Times

Because most people short their bodies on sleep during the week, most people sleep in on the weekends. Those extra hours of sleep feel wonderful, but setting the alarm for a noticeably later hour actually hurts a person’s chance of getting a good night’s sleep. Changes in sleep and wake times can wreak havoc on the body’s circadian rhythm. This means that, come Sunday night, a person struggles to go to sleep in time to get up with their weekday alarm. Unpleasant though the thought may be, it is best to go to bed within an hour of the same time every night and get up within an hour of the same time every morning. This keeps the body on a regular sleep-wake schedule and helps regulate a person’s circadian rhythm. If a person is setting sleep and wake times at least seven hours apart, they will find that getting up at the same time every morning and going to bed at the same time every night will make it easier for them to fall asleep at night and leave them feeling more refreshed in the morning.

Consistent Bedtime Routine

The human body likes consistency, and so does the human mind. Setting and keeping a bedtime routine trains the body to associate sleep with certain activities. If a person always brushes their hair and puts lavender lotion on their hands before bed, the brain will start associating those two actions with sleep. Then, when the person brushes their hair or puts on their lotion, the brain starts preparing for sleep. When the nightly routine is consistent and relaxing, a person is more likely to fall asleep quickly than if they do not have a bedtime routine.

Keep the Bedroom Cool

There is a reason that people tend to toss and turn more in the summer months. If a person’s bedroom is too warm or they are sleeping under too many blankets, they will not sleep as well at night. The best temperature for sleep is considered to be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit with the most optimal temperature falling somewhere around 65 degrees. The need for a cool room is due to the relationship between sleep and the body’s internal temperature regulation. The temperature of the human body fluctuates slightly during the day and begins a steady decline when it is time for sleep. If a person’s bedroom is kept too warm, the person’s body temperature may not make the natural dip that is needed for a restful night’s sleep. In fact, some forms of insomnia have been tied to an inability of the body to properly regulate its temperature at night.

Hot Evening Shower

A hot shower or bath at night can help a person simulate the natural decline in temperature that occurs before sleep. A hot shower or bath will raise a person’s body temperature, temporarily making them feel more awake. When they step out from the hot water, though, their body temperature begins to lower. This decline in temperature mimics the body’s natural cooling and can make a person drowsy and more likely to fall asleep quickly.