(Family Features) Sleep can sometimes feel like self-care that can wait or a reward you need to earn. However, the opposite is true. When it comes to your health, sleep is just as important as physical activity and nutrition.
While you sleep, your body is busy healing and repairing itself, learning and actively preventing chronic diseases. For most adults, getting healthy sleep means sleeping for at least 7 hours each night without waking up frequently, going to bed and waking up at roughly the same times each day and waking up feeling refreshed. Healthy sleep helps the body boost immunity, manage weight, reduce stress and lower the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
“We know chronic insufficient sleep can have a detrimental impact on personal health and increase the risk of many diseases,” said Jennifer L. Martin, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Healthy sleep is also important for mood regulation and mental health, helping to reduce the risk of problems such as anxiety and depression.”
However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 adults in the United States report getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night. Your daily routine – what you eat and drink, the medications you take, how you schedule your days and how you spend your evenings – can significantly impact the quality and duration of your sleep.
These tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s “Sleep Is Good Medicine” campaign – which aims to emphasize sleep as a key pillar of health, equivalent with nutrition and exercise – can help you create a healthy sleep routine to improve your health today and in the long run.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends and during vacations.
- Set a bedtime early enough to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex, or when you are sick. Watch TV and work outside the bedroom.
- Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
- Reduce fluid intake before bedtime.
- Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
- Avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
- If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Do a quiet activity without a lot of light.
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
- Keep a sleep diary. Over a two-week period, track when you go to bed each day, wake during the night and wake in the morning. Also track when you exercise, nap, take medication or have caffeine or alcohol.
Even if you don’t think you have a sleep problem, talk to your doctor about your sleep and share your sleep diary. Together, you can figure out what healthy sleep looks like for you and how to get it. This can help prevent sleep difficulties before they become harder to treat.
Learn more about the role sleep plays in your health and find more tips to help improve your sleep habits at sleepisgoodmedicine.com.
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