Sleep your way to better health tonight
By Nicole Ferring Holovach, MS, RD, LDN Jun 21, 2023 • 5 min
You’re probably used to hearing that eating right and exercising regularly are important in maintaining good health. But sleep is a piece of the health puzzle, too. The next time you delay bedtime, remember this: Not getting enough sleep regularly can contribute to health problems, such as weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression and reduced immunity. Sleep deprivation also affects your brain. It can inhibit problem-solving and decision-making skills, decrease attention span and make it difficult to keep emotions in check.
Now, as to how much you need, there is no one-size-fits-all — it varies based on your age and individual needs. However, most adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. Try these eight tips to help you get the sleep you need to feel rested and refreshed.
1. Relax and disconnect before bed
Many people are naturally tired earlier in the evening, but they feel like they haven’t had any time to themselves and don’t want to go to bed. There is too much to do — favorite television shows to watch, blogs to read and laundry to sort. But it’s best to try to avoid screen time and busy activities at least an hour before bed and try relaxing instead with more soothing activities such as listening to music, guided meditation and controlled breathing.
2. Establish a consistent sleep schedule
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. We have an internal 24-hour clock called the circadian rhythm that partly determines the time when we fall asleep and when we wake up. Going to bed at the same time every night helps set this clock so that your body expects sleep at a certain time night after night. Similarly, waking up at the same time every morning helps train your body to rise at a particular time, helping curb the daily battle with your alarm clock.
3. Dim the lights and avoid screens before bed
Light also helps set your internal clock. Avoiding bright lights before bed can signal your body to produce melatonin, a hormone needed for sleep. Exposure to light, including light from screens on electronic devices, in the evening can delay the release of melatonin, preventing you from feeling sleepy. Dim the lights and put down all devices at an hour before bedtime.
4. Get sunlight during the day
While artificial light in the evening can inhibit sleep, natural light during the day encourages a healthy sleep-wake cycle. A dose of sunshine during the day can help set your circadian rhythm. Take a walk outside in the morning or at lunchtime, or open up your blinds and windows.
5. Create a cozy sleep environment
Transform your bedroom into a tranquil haven. The temperature should be cool and comfortable. Beware of ambient light and noise. Consider investing in earplugs and heavy curtains, blackout shades or an eye mask if light or sound bothers you.
6. Exercise regularly
Exercise helps people sleep better. If you work out at a high intensity, finish your workout well before you intend to go to bed. Intense exercise too close to bedtime can make falling asleep challenging.
7. Avoid big meals too close to bedtime
Going to bed on a full stomach can interfere with sleep. Finish eating a few hours before you go to bed to allow your body time to digest.
8. Curb caffeine and nix the nightcap
Stay away from caffeinated and alcoholic beverages later in the day. Many people turn to caffeine in an effort to stay awake. But consuming caffeine later in the day can keep you from falling asleep. And while alcohol can make you drowsy, it doesn’t help you sleep. Rather, it disrupts or prevents you from getting high-quality sleep.
In some cases, health issues can keep you from getting the sleep you need. See your healthcare provider if you have insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep), tiredness during the day or trouble breathing during sleep.
Clinically reviewed and updated June 2023.
- “Sleep deprivation and deficiency,” National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
- “Healthy sleep tips,” Sleep Foundation
- “Sleep hygiene,” Sleep Foundation
- “Diet and exercise and sleep,” Sleep Foundation
- “Tweak your workout time to maximize those zzz’s,” Sleep Foundation