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Who Get’s the Worst Sleep in America, and How Can We Fix It?

The quality of your sleep can depend on a lot of things. Do you have the right pillow? Are you too stressed out? Is your bed uncomfortable? Is the temperature in your home just right? Is your stomach too full? The list continues, and it can often be difficult to pinpoint why you may not be getting the quality shut-eye your body needs.

However, there may be one reason you haven’t considered. The state you live in just may play a role in the quality of your sleep, and more importantly, how much you are getting. Studies have shown that the residents of certain states seem to get a lot less (or lower quality) sleep than others.

Before you sell the house and uproot your family just to stop feeling drowsy all day, let’s get a closer look at sleep. You may be able to make some changes in your current lifestyle to improve your sleep quality no matter where you live.

Why Do We Need Sleep?

Sleep feels good. It is often the one thing we look forward to after a long day, but it is more scientific than that. Our bodies simply need it.

Sleep is a time for the body to restore what was lost during the day. It is a time for the body to repair and rejuvenate. According to Harvard University, “muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.”

Recently, researchers have discovered evidence showing that sleep is needed for the brain to better perform certain cleaning mechanisms. This ‘cleaning’ process works better when we are asleep. See, sleep really does clear your head.

How Can We Improve the Quality of Our Sleep?

We are responsible for the quality of our own sleep. If you aren’t feeling well rested it is time to implement a few changes and see how much better you start to feel.

Get on a Schedule. Getting your body on a sleep schedule can improve sleep. If you consistently go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, your body will respond to regularity.

Create a Nighttime Routine. Do the same things every night to get ready for bed. You may choose to read for 15 minutes before calling it a night. You may go through the steps of washing your face, brushing your teeth, or taking a bath. By doing the same things each night before hitting the hay, you tell your body it is time to relax and get ready to sleep.

Exercise. Being physically active during the day makes for better rest at night. Find ways throughout the day to keep your body active. However, try not to exercise too close to your bedtime. This can actually alert your body and make falling asleep difficult.

Create a Sleep Environment. Make sure your bedroom invites sleep. It should be a calm place where you feel relaxed. Get rid of clutter. Make sure the temperature is comfortable. Leave your work out of your bedroom. Keep all alerting tasks out of your room so your body learns that this space is for sleeping.

De-stress. It is common for the brain to start making a to-do list just as the head hits the pillow. There are a few ways to combat this. One way is to write a list of all the tasks you need to accomplish the next day just before you go to bed. Or, if your worries get the best of you, write a list of everything you are concerned about right before bed. This way they are acknowledged, but you can get to them tomorrow.

Meditate. Meditation is a healthy habit, and finding a few minutes throughout the day, or as part of your nighttime routine, will help relax your mind and body. Sometimes you have to put in a little effort to help your body relax before falling asleep.

Which States Are Getting the Worst Sleep?

So what does the state you live in have to do with anything? A study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine looked at six states that have the worst sleep disturbance in the country. These states have the highest numbers of people with problems falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much. The states that made the list are: Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

Now, these results beg the question, why? Why are these southern states getting worse sleep than the rest of the nation? Does Alabama have something against meditation? What do Oklahomans have against keeping their rooms clean and uncluttered? Is it because people who live in the northern states simply have less stress?

The truth is something much easier to diagnose. There are simply other unhealthy trends in these states have led to the problematic sleep. Many of these states, for example, have high obesity rates. Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity in the county, West Virginia is in second place, and Alabama is ranked third. Being overweight can decrease the quality of your sleep. It can become more uncomfortable and make breathing more difficult.

These six states also have a large population of smokers. While smoking doesn’t necessarily cause restlessness, it can have a link to poor health. Residents of these six sleepless states have a higher rate of overall poor health and a lower life expectancy.

Getting a solid night’s rest can be an ongoing battle, but evidence shows it is part of maintaining better health. Ironically, good sleep makes you healthier; yet, good sleep also comes to those with better general health. Pay attention to your body. Take care of it. Make healthier choices and your sleep habits will improve.