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The importance of sleep for your health

The basics:

In the past, sleep was often ignored by doctors and surrounded by myths. Now, though, we are beginning to understand the importance of sleep to overall health and well-being. We've learned, for example, that when people get less than 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night, they are at a greater risk of developing diseases.

All the more reason to get some sleep, right? Here are 10 reasons why you should call it an early night.

How much sleep do I need? Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep on a regular schedule each night. Make changes to your routine if you can't find enough time to sleep.

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.

Why is getting enough sleep important? Getting enough sleep has many benefits. It can help you:

  • Sleep reduces inflammation

  • Get sick less often

  • Stay at a healthy weight

  • Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease

  • Reduce stress and improve your mood and memory

  • Sleep may reduce the risk of depression

  • Think more clearly and do better in school and at work

  • Get along better with people

  • Make good decisions and avoid injuries – for example, sleepy drivers cause thousands of car accidents every year

Does it matter when I sleep? Yes. Your body sets your “biological clock” according to the pattern of daylight where you live. This helps you naturally get sleepy at night and stay alert during the day.

If you have to work at night and sleep during the day, you may have trouble getting enough sleep. It can also be hard to sleep when you travel to a different time zone.

Why can’t I fall asleep? Many things can make it harder for you to sleep, including:

  • Stress or anxiety

  • Pain

  • Certain health conditions, like heartburn or asthma

  • Some medicines

  • Caffeine (usually from coffee, tea, and soda)

  • Alcohol and other drugs

  • Untreated sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or insomnia

If you are having trouble sleeping, try making changes to your routine to get the sleep you need. You may want to:

  • Change what you do during the day – for example, get your physical activity in the morning instead of at night.

  • Create a comfortable sleep environment — and make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet.

  • Set a bedtime routine – and go to bed at the same time every night.

Take Action!

Making small changes to your daily routine can help you get the sleep you need.

Change what you do during the day.

  • Try to spend some time outdoors every day.

  • Plan your physical activity for earlier in the day, not right before you go to bed.

  • Stay away from caffeine (including coffee, tea, and soda) late in the day.

  • If you have trouble sleeping at night, limit daytime naps to 20 minutes or less.

  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. This means no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men. Alcohol can keep you from sleeping well.

  • Don’t eat a big meal close to bedtime.

  • Quit smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes can make it harder for you to sleep.

Create a good sleep environment.

  • Make sure your bedroom is dark. If there are streetlights near your window, try putting up light-blocking curtains.

  • Keep your bedroom quiet.

  • Keep electronic devices – like TVs, computers, and smart phones – out of the bedroom.

Set a bedtime routine.

  • Go to bed at the same time every night.

  • Get the same amount of sleep each night.

  • Avoid eating, talking on the phone, or reading in bed.

  • Avoid using computers or smart phones, watching TV, or playing video games at bedtime.

  • If you find yourself up at night worrying about things, get up and do something relaxing, like reading or meditating, until you feel sleepy.

Keep a sleep diary so you can make sure to get enough sleep and you make it a priority for yourself to get enough sleep. It is also helpful to show or talk about this with your doctor at your next routinely check up if you think something is off, as you know now: a restful sleep is very important for your overall health and life quality!

Your Health Coach, Angela


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