Most of us know how important sleep is to our health and well-being, but we still have a hard time sticking to healthy sleep habits. In fact, half of Americans (48%) say they don’t get enough sleep, but less than half of us take any action to help get a better night’s sleep. These 5 simple tips will help you on the path to better sleep – and better health.
- Establish a bedtime. One of the most important sleep habits we can adopt is going to bed and waking around the same time every day. A consistent sleep schedule reinforces our body’s internal clock which helps optimize the quality of our sleep and reminds our brain when it’s time to release sleep and wake hormones. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine also helps signal to the brain that is time to unwind and prepare for sleep.
- Turn off electronics and limit light exposure. Our sleep cycles are strongly influenced by light and dark. While any light has the ability to disrupt our circadian rhythms and suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light from electronics is particularly disruptive and damaging. Try turning off phones, computers, TV, etc. at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Dimming the lights in your home hours before bed can also be very effective.
- Exercise daily. Engaging in regular exercise each day will help you sleep better at night and stay alert during the day. The more vigorously you exercise the more powerful the sleep benefits, but even just 10 minutes of brisk walking can help. Be mindful that working out close to bedtime can interfere with sleep, however, gentle yoga and stretching in the evening can help promote better sleep.
- Eat and drink well. Eating a diet abundant in colorful fruits and vegetables and avoiding large, heavy meals before bed will help achieve you better sleep quality. Limiting caffeine in general or avoiding it after 3 pm will allow your body to effectively let you know when it’s ready to rest. Ideally a healthy, well-rested and active body doesn’t need stimulants to feel well and energized. If you feel dependent on caffeine to get you through your day it may be time to think about making some lifestyle changes.
- De-stress and de-clutter. Many people have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep as a result of stress and worry. Exercise, yoga and deep breathing techniques are all very effective in relieving stress and anxiety. Creating new bedtime rituals can also help you feel organized and relaxed. One strategy is to check all emails and social media early in the evening and then put it away for the night – new messages can wait until tomorrow. Sometimes light cleaning and simple preparations for the next day can help ease the mind as well. And finally, carve some time out of the evening for you – read a book, listen to music, take a warm bath, do some gentle stretching anything that you enjoy and helps you relax.
Still have questions? Reach out to one of the R-Health doctors to talk about your own habits and healthy sleep.
Dr. Steve Horvitz is R-Health’s Medical Director and one of the physician’s part of the NJ SHBP / SEHBP program.