Sleep is essential to your overall health and wellbeing. Getting adequate, quality sleep on a consistent basis can help protect your physical health and mental wellness. It also can contribute to your daily performance, positive mood, ability to think clearly, and safety.
Adults typically require seven to nine hours of continuous sleep each night. Those who don’t get enough sleep over time are at increased risk for a variety of serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia. Insufficient sleep is also associated with compromised immunity, weight gain, depression, and other issues.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.
If you are experiencing sleep issues, first discuss the problem with your healthcare provider to rule out any health-related issues. You may find that changing some bedtime habits and activities make a big difference in your ability to get a good night’s rest. By applying principles of good sleep hygiene, you may be able to achieve the restful sleep you need on an ongoing basis.
Sleep hygiene involves nearly everything related to your sleep habits and environment, including your bedroom environment, sleep schedule, before-bedtime activities, diet, and exercise. Establishing good sleep hygiene begins with a commitment to make sleep a priority in your life.
Here are tips on how you can establish healthy sleep habits that lead to quality, rejuvenating sleep on an ongoing basis.
What you do in the 30 to 60 minutes before you go to sleep can make a difference in your ability to get a quality night’s rest. Focus on making your pre-sleep behaviors calming so you can relax and unwind from the stresses of your day. For example, an hour or so before you go to bed consider one or more of the following activities:
- Dim the lights
- Take a warm bath
- Read a book
- Listen to soothing music
- Practice relaxation techniques
- Use aromatherapy products with calming properties
These type of activities help signal your body and mind that you are preparing for sleep.
Before bedtime, avoid using anything with a screen, such as your phone, tablet, computer, or television. Using these devices keeps your mind in gear rather than helps it relax. Plus, the light emitted from screens may impede your ability to fall asleep. Also, stay away from strenuous exercise, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and spicy food before bedtime.
Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule
The Sleep Foundation suggests individuals have a set schedule to normalize sleep. Having a consistent time to go to sleep and wake up enables your brain and body to become accustomed to getting the full amount of sleep that you require.
As mentioned earlier, seven to nine hours of sleep are optimal for adults; though, each person has different sleep needs. Some people may require less sleep, while others may need more. If you want to establish a new, ongoing sleep schedule, begin by making gradual adjustments of up to an hour to establish new times to go to bed and awaken.
Note that naps can be a welcomed activity during the day; yet, they can get in the way of your sleep at night. So refrain from napping, if possible. Though, if you need a nap to regain your energy, keep it short and early in the day.
Nurture Positive Daily Habits
What you do during each day will impact your quality of sleep at night. A commitment to regularly exercising and eating healthy will benefit your sleep, as well as your overall physical and mental health. Spending time outside in direct light, even if it is overcast, can be helpful as well.
Avoid smoking and reduce consumption of alcoholic beverages since both are known to impede your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Cut down on caffeinated drinks during the day and refrain from them in the evenings. Also, try not to eat a heavy meal late in the evening so your digestive system doesn’t interfere with your ability to sleep.
Sleep-Enticing Bedroom Environment
An essential element of good sleep hygiene involves preparing your bedroom to be a personal refuge – a retreat from the noise and stresses of everyday life, according to Better-Sleep-Better-Life.com. Each aspect of your bedroom should be considered relative to your comfort and ability to prepare for rest. This includes your mattress, linens, room lighting, air flow, colors – and everything in between. Even the coziness of the pajamas you wear can affect your sleep.
- Bedding: Use a mattress and pillow that are comfortable and provide the support you desire. Use quality bed linens and blankets that feel pleasing to the touch.
- Bedroom Temperature: Some people like their bedrooms warm and toasty. Others prefer the temperature to be cool. Whatever your preference, pay attention to your climate control to ensure it supports your sleep comfort.
- Bedroom Lighting: Cover lights from electronics and use light-blocking window coverings to limit light from shining in your bedroom. These ambient-light sources can get in the way of your ability to enjoy restful sleep. At the same time, limit noise that may wake you up. Use ear plugs or a white-noise machine to drown out sound, if necessary.
- Limit In-Bed Activity: While some people work, read texts, and/or engage in other activities while in bed, it is best to use your bed only for the purposes of sleep and sex.
- Bedroom Decor: Make your bedroom appealing and comfortable by keeping it clean, using soft lights, removing clutter, and decorating with calm colors that make you feel relaxed.
Outcomes of Healthy Sleep
As noted, achieving quality sleep night after night furthers your health and wellbeing. Plus, your risk of serious illnesses and accidents is lessened. At the same time, you likely will find that you wake up easier, feel better, and have a rosier outlook on life.
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