Many Americans don’t get enough sleep, even though they know that it’s important. But how important is it really?
Sleep has wide-reaching effects on the body. It helps us consolidate memories, learn better during the day, and be more alert for decision making. Those are just some of the main effects it has on your brain, but sleep also has a big impact on other functions in your body too. While you’re asleep, your heart and blood vessels have time to repair themselves. Because of this, an ongoing lack of sleep has been associated with heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Sleep deficiency has also shown a strong correlation to obesity. The list of benefits a proper night of sleep provides continues to grow with further research, but to sum it up, sleep plays a role in nearly every aspect of our mental and physical state.
When it comes to sleep not everyone needs the same amount to reap its benefits and feel well-rested. Although the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours, play around to find your own personal sweet spot. Regardless of how much you need, follow these 9 tips to help you fall–and stay–asleep.
- Having trouble drifting off at night? Try a bedtime meditation to help you relax. There are apps you can download that will lead you through a guided meditation (e.g. Headspace; Stop, Breathe & Think; or Calm) or just take a few minutes, with your eyes closed, to slow down and pay attention to your breath.
- Set an alarm so you to wake up at the same time every morning and go to bed at the same time every night (yes, even on the weekends!). A consistent sleep schedule reinforces your body’s natural rhythms.
- Cut off the caffeine intake starting four to six hours before bedtime. Remember that caffeine is in more than just coffee; other main caffeine culprits include black tea and certain sodas.
- Make your bedroom into a sleep haven: ditch the electronics, dim the lights and keep the room cool for optimal sleep.
- Work on your wind-down routine. For the half hour or so before you go to bed, choose quiet and relaxing activities like reading or taking a bath. Using electronics right before bed can trick your brain into staying awake.
- If you’ve been tossing and turning for more than 30 minutes, get up and do a relaxing activity somewhere else until you feel sleepy. You can also turn the clock toward the wall so worries of not getting enough sleep don’t start a vicious cycle.
- When you’re stressed, your sleep often suffers. Keep a pad of paper and pen near your bed and write down any nagging thoughts and to-do items.
- Avoid eating large meals before bed. The process of digestion and the discomfort from feeling too full can make it difficult to drift off.
- While alcohol often has a reputation for making people sleepy, try to avoid consuming it before bed since it can interrupt your sleep cycles and cause you to wake up frequently during the night. To avoid disrupting your sleep, it’s best to stick to 2 drinks or less for men and 1 drink or less for women. [1 drink = 12 fluid ounces beer; 5 fluid ounces wine; 1.5 fluid ounces of liquor]
Sleep is essential to good health and not only does sleep alone make your body work better, it also gives you the energy to take other healthy actions like going to the grocery store to get fresh foods to cook or exercise. Try out any or all of these tips and hold on to the ones that work best for you so you can sleep your way to health!
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