Many of us aren’t getting enough sleep at night; just think of how often you hear a friend say, “I’m tired.” You may find yourself trying to sneak in more rest during the day, catch some zzz’s on a business flight, or even take naps at work. Without sleep, not only are you dealing with low energy and grogginess, but also potentially serious health consequences. Finding yourself short on shut-eye may be the result of some common sleep blunders, but the good news is they’re fixable. We talked with Michelle Fishberg, co-founder and CEO of sleep wellness company Slumbr, who shared the biggest sleep mistakes you may be making and how to prevent them.

A woman stretches happily as she wakes in a bright room

The Biggest Sleep Mistakes You Might Be Making

1. Not Getting Enough Sleep: The CDC reports that a third of all Americans aren’t getting enough sleep, meaning they’re spending less than seven hours in dreamland each night. Unfortunately, most people underestimate how many zzz’s they’re getting, or think they can get away with less rest than they really need. “People believe the worst that happens when you lose sleep is that you feel groggy or have less energy the next day. You need to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Very few people are ‘super sleepers’ that can get by with no ill effects on less,” Fishberg says. Lack of sleep can hurt everything from your body to your relationships.

2. Not Understanding the Quality of Your Sleep: If you have trouble dozing off or wake up multiple times during the night, the quality of your sleep may be suffering. Even if you’re in bed for the required seven to eight hours at night, you may not be getting the full benefit, and as Fishberg explains, sleep quality is just as important as quantity. “Most of these ‘mistakes’ stem from not prioritizing sleep or not being very knowledgeable about what constitutes good slumber hygiene. And this isn’t surprising, as most of us were never taught what the optimal practices should be,” she points out.

3. Not Linking Common Health Problems to Your Lack of Sleep: “What people don’t understand is that there are major long-term health effects if you consistently deprive yourself of sleep, and a wealth of long-term health benefits to putting it first,” Fishberg shares.

Although most people are aware that not getting enough sleep can affect their body and mind, they don’t make the connection between their current health problems and sleep quality. Lack of shut-eye has been linked to multiple issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Research has also shown it influences mood disorders, immune function, and life expectancy. If you have a chronic illness, your sleep patterns can make it worse or better.

The Solutions

1. Track your sleep every night. Apps like FitBit or Jawbone Up track exactly how many hours you spend in bed and the quality of your rest, and they can tell if you’re in light, deep, or REM sleep. They can also show when you’re awake and having disrupted or fitful sleep.

2. Give yourself a bedtime. Even if you’re a working adult, you still need a consistent bedtime. Fishberg recommends going to bed by 10pm every night, on weekdays and weekends. Don’t let a Netflix marathon derail your plans, because not sticking to a bedtime can mess up your body’s internal clock. “Having a bedtime is so important that specialists will tell you it’s fundamental to getting good sleep. You need to turn bedtime into a ritual you look forward to every night,” Fishberg shares.

3. Use a journal or app to track your health problems. Start to make the connection between your health and sleep by journaling about it. You can use a traditional paper journal or type up your thoughts with a phone app. Make a note of your symptoms along with how many zzz’s you’re getting, and soon, you should start to see the patterns between them.

You’re not alone if you’re making mistakes, but you can fix them and enjoy dreamland again!

Share your sleep woes with us on Twitter @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)