As a way to promote the importance of sleep, the National Sleep Foundation named March Sleep Awareness Month.
Getting adequate shut eye on a daily basis is crucial when it comes to your overall health and well-being, yet too few of us are getting adequate sleep or making it a priority. On average, most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, school age children and teens between 8 and 11 hours, and toddlers, infants and babies require even more. Not only can lack of sleep tempt you to make unhealthy food choices or to skip your workouts, but it can also increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Top Three Tips to Improve Your Sleep Habits
1) Improve your sleep routine – Just sticking to a regular sleep schedule or routine can make a world of difference. Try going to bed at the same time every night; that means on the weekends, too! Another option is to read a book before bedtime or dim the lights and play soothing music. Sleep masks are a great aid to help you fall asleep peacefully. When the brain senses pure darkness, it causes the production of melatonin, the important chemical of sleep.
2) Beware of hidden sleep stealers – There are a variety of sleep stealers out there, caffeine anyone? It is recommended you avoid caffeine too close to bedtime and make sure you aren’t drinking excessive amounts throughout the day (i.e. – no more than a few cups of coffee).
A huge, and yet often missed, sleep stealer is electronics. The blue light emitted by the screens of tvs, computers, tablets and phones actually suppresses melatonin. By engaging with electronics close to bedtime, you’re keeping your brain alert, making it difficult to unwind. Try not to fall asleep to the television and avoid keeping your phone on your nightstand. Having any electronics easily accessible from your bed can lead to tempting night-time surfing at 1 or 2 in the morning.
3) Exercise regularly and eat healthy – In general, exercising regularly before bedtime can improve sleep quality and increase the duration of your sleep. Physical activity can also help reduce stress and tire you out. However, make sure you finish up your workout at least three hours before bedtime. If you exercise too close to when you plan to fall asleep, you could bring on exercise-induced insomnia. Everyone is different though, and some people can tolerate a workout right before bed. Find what works for you.
It’s also important to eat healthy and avoid eating too much before hitting the sheets. If you’re truly hungry after dinner and before bed, have a light snack to curb your hunger. Nighttime nibbles should be limited to around 200 calories so the body isn’t up all night digesting. Great examples of snacks include a small 100 calorie bag of popcorn, applesauce or yogurt with berries.