Getting a good night’s sleep is more than satisfying: it plays a major role in our mental and physical health.
Why sleep is important
Your brain recharges while you sleep, making it easier to learn and remember information.1 When you are well-rested, it is easier to make decisions, solve problems, control emotions and deal with change.1
Research points to possible physical risks of not getting enough sleep, too. Ongoing lack of sleep is linked to increased risk for heart disease and hypertension, kidney disease, stroke, high blood pressure, mood disorders and diabetes.1,2 It can also contribute to obesity by increasing feelings of hunger and lowering feelings of satisfaction after eating.1
Creating healthier sleep habits
The Mayo Clinic recommends seven to nine hours of sleep each night for adults over the age of 17.3 When was the last time you hit that mark? Here are some tips and tricks to improve your sleep habits:
- Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. By waking up and going to bed at the same time every day (yes, even on the weekends!), your body develops a routine that could help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.4
- Eat healthy. Recent studies have shown that eating habits can impact sleep. Try to eat a well-balanced diet with limited saturated fats and sugars, reduce snacking after 9 p.m., and eat light portions for dinner.5
- Limit screen time. The blue light on phones, computers and TVs can actually trick the brain into thinking it is daytime. Experts recommend staying away from screens two to three hours before bed.6 That means no more late-night scrolling through social media or watching Netflix.
- Exercise daily. Exercising can improve how well and how long you sleep. For some people, exercising late in the day can actually have a negative effect on sleep.7 Try to vary the timing of your physical activity to find the time that works best for you.
1National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency. Accessed on March 29, 2019.
2 Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School: Sleep and Disease Risk. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk. Accessed on March 29, 2019.
3Mayo Clinic: How many hours of sleep are enough for good health? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/faq-20057898 Accessed on March 29, 2019.
4Cleveland Clinic: Sleep: What You Need to Know. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/13268-sleep-what-you-need-to-know. Accessed on March 29, 2019.
5Mayo Clinic: Will a bedtime snack help me sleep better? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/foods-that-help-you-sleep/faq-20057763. Accessed on March 29, 2019.
6Harvard Health Publishing: Blue light has a dark side. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side. Accessed on March 29, 2019.
7John’s Hopkins Medicine: Exercising for Better Sleep. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy-sleep/sleep-better/exercising-for-better-sleep. Accessed on March 29, 2019.