Millions of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep each night. It’s recommended that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night, but in reality, 40 percent of us get less than that. Lack of sleep impacts our daily performance, our feelings of wellness, and of course, both our physical and mental health. In response, many professionals have recommended simple lifestyle changes, such as going to bed earlier or exercising during the day, to aid in getting more hours of full, quality sleep.

But how much control do you really have over your own sleep habits?

Genetic Components

Research suggests that at least some of our sleep habits are already determined by our genetic makeup, over which we have little to no control.

For example, it’s been shown that snoring is 300 percent more likely to occur in people who already have a family history of snoring. Scientists aren’t sure whether there’s some underlying cause of snoring that’s transmitted between family members or whether this is due to inherited traits that tend to produce higher rates of snoring, such as narrowed airways, obesity, and a high neck circumference. In any case, if you’re susceptible to snoring, you may be naturally less likely to get a good night’s sleep.

Many sleep disorders are also shown to have a genetic component, including insomnia and narcolepsy. Twin studies and familial studies show that individuals with a family history of insomnia and other sleep disorders are more likely to experience sleep disorders as well. However, it’s worth noting that the expression of sleep disorders seems to be a combination of genetic factors, environmental factors, and genetic-environmental interactions.

Conditional Factors

You may also feel like your sleep habits are out of control due to environmental factors, such as a demanding job or a personal schedule. Full-time American adults work an average of 47 hours per week, which is significant—but not enough to prevent you from getting 7 hours of sleep per night—after all, that’s only an average of 6.7 working hours per day.

Chances are, your perception of how busy you are is skewed. Even if it isn’t, there are always positive changes you can make to free up more time and allow yourself to take part in habits and behaviors conducive to a healthy sleep schedule.

Practical Ways to Improve Your Sleep Habits

So overall, there truly are some factors beyond your control influencing how you’re able to sleep. But you’re still capable of controlling your environment to ensure you get the sleep you need to perform your best and stay healthy.

Even if you’re genetically predisposed to have a sleep disorder, or experience snoring, you can minimize your risk, improve your sleep quality, and increase your number of hours slept per night with these priorities:

  • Set aside sleep hours. If you schedule 7 hours to sleep, you’ll be more likely to achieve those 7 hours. Don’t let sleep fall into an “other” category made from whatever’s left over from the rest of the day’s activities. Make it your first priority when setting your schedule, and build your life around it.
  • Eat healthy. Snoring and poor sleep quality are both linked to obesity. You can control your weight by eating smaller portions of healthier foods, including fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, rather than junk foods, sodas, and alcohol (which can strongly interfere with your sleep). Even small changes make a big difference here.
  • Exercise. Exercising helps keep your weight under control and simultaneously burns energy, so you sleep more deeply when you rest for the night. You can spare the 20 minutes it takes to get a decent workout in, no matter what. It might mean biking to work instead of driving or taking a walk during your lunch break, but it’s always possible.
  • Create a better sleeping environment. If you have a noisy partner, consider sleeping in a different room. If you’re in an urban environment, purchase noise-cancelling headphones. If light bothers you, get blackout curtains. If your mattress is uncomfortable, invest in a better one. There are always changes you can make to improve your sleep environment.

If you’re constantly waking up feeling groggy, or feel tired throughout the day, there’s no reason for you to assume that you don’t have control over your life. There are some genetic and environmental factors influencing your sleep habits, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to overcome them. If your genes have made you more susceptible to health problems or difficulty sleeping, that just means you’ll need to work extra hard to establish sleep habits that work.

Author's Bio: 

My name is Jessica and I am an independent journalist, freelance blogger, and technology junkie with a passion for music, arts, and the outdoors. One of my greatest passions and joy is assisting communities and business owners. My utmost desire is to help people and business owners to succeed and prosper in their personal and business affairs. I share, comment, write and edit popular news stories.