Sleep Health—Why It’s Important and How You Can Improve
Sleep is not a luxury. It’s a crucial component of your overall well-being—just like eating a balanced diet and exercising.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, "most adults need seven or more hours of good-quality sleep on a regular schedule each night. Getting enough sleep isn’t only about total hours of sleep. It’s also important to get good-quality sleep on a regular schedule so you feel rested when you wake up."
Not only can a good night’s sleep help you feel less tired, but it can also help aid in weight management, lower your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, improve your mood, reduce stress and increase your focus.
The Mayo Clinic explains that "many factors can interfere with a good night's sleep—from work stress and family responsibilities to illnesses. It's no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive. You might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep. However, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep." The Mayo Clinic offers seven simple tips that can improve your sleep:
- Plan a sleep schedule and stick to it. Set a goal of at least seven hours of sleep to feel well-rested. It’s important to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Sticking with a schedule will reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle. If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, try doing something relaxing like listening to music, reading, or writing in a journal. Be sure to avoid too much light exposure during this time. When you feel tired, try to go back to bed.
- Be mindful about what you eat or drink before bed. Avoid going to bed hungry or full. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack. It’s also important to avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol. The effects of nicotine and caffeine can take time to wear off and can keep you awake. With alcohol, you might fall asleep quickly, but it can disrupt your sleep later in the night and impact the quality of sleep you are getting.
- Create a peaceful atmosphere that helps you fall asleep. Keeping your room at a comfortable, cool temperature that is dark and quiet can help create a restful environment. If there is light coming into the room, it can make it challenging to fall asleep. Room darkening shades can be helpful. Avoid screentime before bed, whether you are on your phone, iPad or watching TV. Consider using earplugs or turning on a fan to eliminate sounds around you. If you have a hard time relaxing before bed, try taking a bath or doing some relaxation breathing.
- Limit or avoid naps during the day. Naps can interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. It’s best to resist the temptation to nap during the day, but if you are making up for sleep debt try to nap for no more than an hour.
- Incorporate physical activity into your daily healthy habits. Whether you are tracking your steps, taking an exercise class or playing a game of pick-up basketball, movement and physical activity are great contributors to better sleep. Even better, take your physical activity outdoors. The fresh air can do wonders! It’s best to avoid too much activity right before your bedtime.
- Quiet your mind before bed. It can be quite frustrating when your worries and stress are keeping you up at night. It can be helpful to write your worries down in a journal before you hit the pillow and set your concerns aside until the next day. This can be a relaxing activity that helps you organize your thoughts and help prioritize for the next day. Avoid the temptation to scroll through social media before bed – try reading a book instead.
- Contact your health care provider if your sleep health continues to decline. There could be an underlying cause for the lack of sleep. It’s important to identify that cause so you can get the good night’s rest that you deserve.
HealthFlex participants have access to the Virgin Pulse® Sleep Guide. The Sleep Guide provides you with customized tips, tracks all your sleep data in one place and helps you earn well-being incentives. Click here to learn how to use the sleep guide.