Updated: May 28, 2020
Written by Hannah Roberts
National Sleep Awareness Week falls in March. Sleep plays an important role in maintaining physical health, mental health, quality of life, productivity, and safety. How you feel when you are awake depends on the quality and quantity of sleep your body is getting. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. In addition to getting enough sleep, regularity is key for an individuals’ sleep to be most beneficial for their body. Sleep is important for your brain to work properly, helping you to learn, problem solve, and cope with emotions.
On top of not feeling your best, not getting enough sleep can increase an individuals’ risk for various health problems. Ongoing sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Individuals who are sleep deficient are also less productive at work, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes. Lack of sleep can become a safety concern when driving or operating machinery.
The National Sleep Foundation provides the following tips for a good night sleep:
Stick to a sleep schedule – this means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day including weekends. Regularity makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Relax before bedtime – incorporate a routine to wind down leading up to bedtime. Dimming bright lights and reducing stress or anxiety is important due to their ability to make it more difficult to fall asleep. It is also important to avoid alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and heavy meals two to three hours before going to sleep, although a light snack 45 minutes before bed is okay. Avoid electronic devices because of the light they emanate stimulates brain activity.
Exercise daily – exercising (not at the expense of sleep) improves overall health and can reduce stressors making it difficult to obtain quality sleep. Higher intensity exercises are best, but incorporating light exercise is better than no exercise.
Evaluate your room – the optimal sleep environment is between 60 and 67 degrees. There should be no distracting noises or lights. Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable and supportive, and that they are free from allergens that may disturb your sleep.
If you are having trouble sleeping do not hesitate to speak with your doctor. It can be helpful to record your sleep and the tips you have tried in a sleep diary to share with your physicians.