It’s well-established that sleep is essential to our physical and mental health. But despite its importance, a troubling percentage of people find themselves regularly deprived of quality sleep and are notably sleepy during the day.
Your daily routines – what you eat and drink, the medications you take, how you schedule your days and how you choose to spend your evenings – can significantly impact your quality of sleep. Even a few slight adjustments can, in some cases, mean the difference between sound sleep and a restless night. Completing a two-week sleep diary can help you understand how your routines affect your sleep.
The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
It’s easy to think about sleep as a time when your body and brain temporarily shuts off. The truth is, however, during rest your brain is hard at work overseeing a wide variety of biological upkeep and preparing for the next day. More specifically, adequate sleep is necessary to:
- Stay Alert. Good sleep allows your mind to regain focus and tackle those tricky mental challenges. It can also stimulate creativity.
- Boost Memory. Sleeping is the most important time to shape memories and make the connections between events, feelings and experiences. In fact, sleep is a requirement to form new learning and memory pathways in the brain.
- Fight Infection. Sleep is your body’s mechanism to ward off infection. When you don’t get enough, your immune system is weaker, making you more susceptible to illness.
- Be Active. Energy levels after healthy sleep are higher, and your mental awareness is more acute. Good sleep is also tied to improved athletic performance, including greater speed, agility and reflexes.
- Replenish. During sleep, your body repairs the damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays and other harmful exposure, as well as muscle injuries and other traumas.
Tips for a better night’s sleep
- Find Time to Move: Daily exercise has across-the-board benefits for health, and the changes it initiates in energy use and body temperature can promote solid sleep. Most experts advise against intense exercise close to bedtime because it may hinder your body’s ability to effectively settle down before sleep.
- Monitor Your Caffeine Intake: Avoid Caffeinated drinks, including coffee, tea, and sodas later in the day when it can be a barrier to falling sleep.
- Don’t Eat Too Late: Avoid late dinners and minimize especially fatty or spicy foods. If you need an evening snack, opt for something light and healthy.
- Disconnect From Devices: Tablets, cell phones, and laptops can keep your brain wired, making it hard to truly wind down. The light from these devices can also suppress your natural production of melatonin. Disconnect for 30 minutes or more before going to bed.
- Wind Down For At Least 30 Minutes: It’s much easier to doze off smoothly if you are at-ease. Quiet reading, low-impact stretching, listening to soothing music, and relaxation exercises are examples of ways to get into the right frame of mind for sleep.
- Set a Fixed Wake-Up Time: Pick a wake-up time and stick with it, even on weekends or other days when you would otherwise be tempted to sleep in.
- Cultivate Peace and Quiet: If you can’t eliminate nearby sources of noise, consider drowning them out with a fan or white noise machine. Earplugs or headphones are another option to stop abrasive sounds from bothering you when you want to sleep.
Avoid Light Disruption: Excess light exposure can throw off your sleep and circadian rhythm. Blackout curtains over your windows or a sleep mask for over your eyes can block light and prevent it from interfering with your rest.