Adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, according to the Mayo Clinic. But one-third of Americans are getting fewer than six hours on average, according to a study published earlier this year looking at government data collected from 2004-2017.
A good night's sleep is a must if you want to be productive. Sleep-deprived workers cost companies anywhere from $60 billion to $136 billion a year, with overall economic losses estimated at up to $411 billion annually.
To improve their sleep, 1 in 5 Americans turn to over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like Tylenol PM or ZzzQuil, according to a 2017 Consumer Reports survey. But experts say that may not be optimal. Those kinds of drugs contain antihistamines, an ingredient whose long-term effects include an increased chance of dementia. And they may not be a sustainable solution, either: The longer you take them, the more tolerance you build up to them and the less effective they become, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There are still good, affordable ways get more sleep. Here are three expert-approved, low-cost suggestions:
Melatonin is a hormone released by your brain that doesn't make you sleepy but does dull your alertness and make "sleep more inviting," according to the National Sleep Foundation. Your body also won't develop a tolerance for it, according to Healthline.com, so you are less likely to become dependent on it, or need more of it, as time goes on.
"You can't start the sleep process without melatonin on board," says Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders.
Melatonin production decreases as you age. It also drops if you are exposed to light — not just sunlight, but also light from a laptop or a phone. If you're having trouble sleeping, eliminating junk light from your nightly routine will help your body naturally produce more melatonin and promote sleep.
If you still can't get to sleep, try taking a melatonin supplement. The right dosage is typically between 0.5 and 1.5 milligrams, Breus says, but check with your doctor. A bottle of 60 0.5-milligram pills from Pure Encapsulations on Amazon costs $9.50.
Magnesium helps activate neurotransmitters that calm your body and mind, according to Healthline.com, and Vitamin D enables your body to better absorb whatever nutrients you're putting in it. Yet almost half of the population, 42%, is Vitamin D deficient, according to a 2011 study.
Breus suggests taking vitamin D in the morning — "[It] seems to give me energy," he says — and then magnesium at night. Together, they can safely help you establish a more regular circadian rhythm.
Check with your doctor on the right dosages in combination. Breus says between 100 and 350 milligrams of magnesium daily is the typical recommendation, and the Mayo Clinic puts the recommended daily dose of Vitamin D for most adults at 600 international units (IU).
If you live in a noisy neighborhood or an apartment with thin walls, consider using white noise. It can drown out disturbances and help you get better sleep, especially if you are woken up easily.
Patients in a hospital were found to get better sleep with a noise machine compared to patients sleeping without one, according to a 2016 study.
"My favorite is the Nightingale, as it is programmable — specific time to turn on and off, plus various options for sound — and you can plug one machine in on both sides of the bedroom to get a stereo sound," says Dr. Kent Smith, founding director of Sleep Dallas. It retails for $70 on Amazon. If you're looking to spend less, the Big Red Rooster White Noise Machine costs $20 on Amazon and has a four-star rating.
You can even download free white-noise apps onto your phone.
Whatever route you choose, make sure you keep your sleep routine consistent. This will help you set yourself up to fall asleep quickly and wake up refreshed.
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