In addition to exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, consistently getting a good night’s sleep is an important – and often overlooked – aspect of your overall health. New research is shedding light on just how important quality sleep is to our everyday lives. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), poor sleep affects many parts of our health, relationships and our job performance. People who do not get enough sleep are more likely to have problems with memory, concentration, learning, reasoning, weight management and other serious health problems like hypertension, cancer and diabetes.
For an alarming number of people, falling and staying asleep is not as easy as counting sheep or listening to a simulated tropical rainstorm. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, and for 60 percent of them, the condition is chronic. In short, there’s a good chance you’re one out of the three people who suffer from insomnia.
Why are so many Americans tossing and turning at night? Research from the CDC says that insufficient sleep may be caused by work schedules, poor stress management and our culture’s “always on” mentality – especially when it comes to accessing technology.
But, there’s good news – by adopting the National Sleep Foundation’s tips for health sleep (known as sleep hygiene) and making a couple changes to your routine, a restful night’s sleep is within reach.
- Stick to a schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends). This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity before bedtime conducted away from bright lights (your phone, tablet or laptop) helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Think: reading, yoga or journaling.
- If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
- Work up a sweat. Vigorous exercise every day is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
- Evaluate your bedroom. Design a sleep environment conducive for a restful night. Your bedroom should be a cool temperature and free from any noise or light that can disturb your sleep. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, earplugs, white noise machines, fans and other devices.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress. This may seem obvious, but make sure that your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years (or since childhood) may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses.
Plus: Think you’re already getting the sleep you need? Take WebMD’s assessment to find out.