Did you know that sufficient sleep is just as important to your health as healthy eating and exercise? As you sleep your body restores itself for the following day through tissue, cell and muscle repair; recharging your brain; and releasing important hormones. Both the quality and quantity of sleep are important for physical, emotional and mental health. Without sufficient sleep, you may experience poor concentration, irritability, higher stress levels, a weakened immune system, elevation in blood pressure and weight gain. In recognition of Better Sleep Month, follow these tips to help improve your sleep.
Create a sleep-friendly bedroom. A sleep-friendly bedroom promotes sleep through comfort and relaxation. Key characteristics of a sleep-friendly bedroom include:
- Ideal temperature: According to the National Sleep Foundation, good sleep usually occurs between 60 and 67 degrees. If this recommendation sounds too warm or too cool, choose a temperature that is comfortable for you.
- Dark or dim light: Your body’s natural rhythm is set by its exposure to light. If your room is too bright, you may have a hard time sleeping as your body will think it is still time to be awake. Dim the lights or keep the room dark so your body knows it is time to sleep.
- Quiet: Even when you’re sleeping, your brain is working. If it hears noise, you may not sleep as deeply as you should. Eliminating outside noise through the constant noise of a fan or white noise machine, ear plugs, etc. can be helpful.
- Calming: Your bedroom should be where you go to relax and unwind. Decorate this room in a style that pleases you. Keeping your bedroom clean can also help for a calm environment.
- A comfortable bed: Choose sheets, pillows and a mattress that you find comfortable and soothing. Check out The Better Sleep Council: Mattress, Pillows and Sheets for additional tips on making your bed comfortable.
Find a bedtime routine. By doing the same activities each night before bed, you can train your body to wind down in preparation for sleep. Choose a relaxing activity such as reading a book, listening to music, meditating, having a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea or glass of warm milk to help signal to your body it’s time to sleep.
Set a schedule. You should aim to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning (even on the weekends) to maximize your sleep quantity. Aim to get between 7.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep per night.
Turn off your electronics. Put your phone on vibrate, turn off the TV, shut off your tablet and log off your computer. The light, noise and stimulation from electronics can keep you from getting a full night’s rest.
Reduce your stress. Stress from the day can become overwhelming at night if you’re unable to quiet your mind. Find a way to keep stress out of the bedroom like meditating, keeping a journal, or talk about your stress with your partner or a family member prior to bedtime.
Exercise regularly. There are so many benefits to exercise, and sleep is one of them! People who exercise regularly tend to experience better quality sleep. However, if you exercise too close to bedtime, you may find it difficult to fall asleep. The further apart your exercise and sleep, the better–but if you must work out later in the day, aim for no later two hours before bed.
Clock your caffeine intake. Caffeine takes about 4 to 7 hours to leave your body entirely. If you consume caffeine too late in the afternoon, chances are you may still have caffeine in your system close to bed, especially if you enjoy more than one caffeinated beverage in a day. For more information on caffeine and sleep, check out this video.
Avoid tobacco and alcohol prior to bed. Using tobacco or consuming alcohol too close to bed may prevent you from getting restorative rest. Check out the links below for more information on how these two substances affect your sleep.
Harvard Medical School: Smoking and Sleep
Harvard Medical School: Alcohol and Sleep
For Health Advocate Members
Having trouble sleeping? If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our Wellness Coaching Program, call us today to connect with a Wellness Coach for additional tips and strategies in making sleep a priority.
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