Depending on their age, babies sleep between 12 and 20 hours a day. While sleeping like a baby would be a bit much for most of us adults, many of us would be happy to get the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night.

Yet the 2013 Gallup poll tells us that approximately 40% of all Americans get far less than the sleep they need every night. This means that almost half of the people from all walks of life, all types of jobs, and all age groups are affected by a lack of the sleep that is so necessary to their daily functioning. Are you one of them?

The benefits of good-quality sleep

 Sleep helps our brains function properly, and is an important catalyst in maintaining good health.  Sleep deficiency has been implicated in an increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, hormonal imbalance, insulin irregularities, improper cell repair, immune deficiencies, and growth problems. It also inspires mood disorders that can lead to irritability, depression, suicidal ideology, and unnecessary risk-taking behavior.

The benefits of good-quality sleep cannot be understated.  Much research has gone into figuring out other ways sleep benefits us:

  • Sleep enhances memory retention

An adequate amount of sleep improves your memory by aiding in the consolidation of memories. Short-term memories are moved over into your long-term memory area.

  • Sleep affects inflammation in the body

Studies have documented a definite correlation between sleep loss and increased inflammation in the body.

  • Creativity is heightened

According to research, the increase in creativity is due to our getting enough REM sleep.

  • Performance is enhanced

Sleep is critical for athletic performance, and is often the key to an athlete’s winning competitions. We can improve all aspects of our physical and mental performance by getting an adequate amount of sleep at night. Children get better grades with enough sleep, and adults’ job performance improves with a good night’s sleep.

  • Eating issues often disappear with adequate sleep

People who get a sufficient amount of sleep are less tempted to reach for sugary foods or carbohydrates to jump start their sleep-deprived flagging energy during the day.

  • Relationships work better

Without the irritability and poor judgement sleep deprivation causes, relationships flow more smoothly.

  • Accidents are easier to avoid

Sleep deprived people are more accident prone due to their having reduced coordination and less effective thought processing.

How to get a proper amount of ZZZZ’s

Here are some very simple ways you can improve your sleep. Be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning any of the supplemental regimens recommended:

  1. Avoid eating sugar-laden foods after about 7 PM at night.
  1. Try taking melatonin and 5-HTP (the L-tryptophan precursor) before bedtime.
  1. Do not use computers or watch televisions for at least an hour before you go to bed.
  1. Avoid large meals right before bedtime, and make sure to eat balanced meals to give your body all the nutrients it needs.
  1. Avoid using nicotine, caffeine or alcohol before bedtime. Nicotine and caffeine inhibit your ability to fall asleep, and while alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, it also causes disruptive, non-restorative sleep.
  1. Do not use peppermint or cinnamon flavored toothpaste before bedtime as they both stimulate alertness.
  1. Review your medications for possible sleep disrupters such as beta blockers and antidepressants.
  1. Get good aerobic exercise every day, but not within 4 hours of sleeping.
  1. Keep your bedroom thermostat between 65 and 75 degrees for optimal sleeping and to avoid being too warm at night.
  1. Establish a sleep ritual, awakening at the same time every day and going to sleep at the same time every night
  1. Keep a pad beside your bed. Write down the thoughts that interrupt your ability to go to sleep, including the list of things you need to do the following day, and then forget them all.
  1. Magnesium deficiency can result in sleep disorders. Blood tests are not conclusive regarding magnesium deficiency, so try taking a high absorbing version of it like magnesium malate or magnesium chloride.

Using these handy tips will hopefully allow you to sleep just like a baby.