Build Better Sleep for Improved Health

March 16, 2023

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Getting enough sleep is one thing you can do to improve your overall health. Yet many Americans are not clocking enough sleep in their daily routines. 

Sleep leads to healthy brain function and helps maintain physical health. Getting rest is also important for mental health. It can affect mood and productivity. 

When you sleep, your brain rests and recharges. Without enough sleep, you may have trouble concentrating and thinking clearly. 

Studies have shown poor sleep leads to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes. Sleep issues can also lead to other chronic illnesses, including depression, obesity and heart disease. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends seven or more hours of sleep per night for most adults between ages 18 and 60. Children need more sleep. The amount of sleep a child needs depends on his or her age. It is one of the most important things for children's health

Improving sleep starts with good sleep hygiene. It can help as you age.  

Go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time every morning. Keep up this habit on weekends.  

Follow a routine. Build nightly habits to improve your sleep. They cue your brain that it is time for bed. Tailor routines for your own needs. Some examples include brushing your teeth, washing your face and meditating. 

Sleep in a dark, quiet bedroom at a comfortable temperature. A sleep mask can help block light. Earplugs or white-noise machines can control the sound in your bedroom. 

Keep devices away from your sleep space. This includes cellphones and televisions. Many cellphones have a built-in “Do Not Disturb” feature that mutes notifications during certain hours. Phones also come with bedtime alarms that let you set a sleep routine on your device. 

Limit the time you spend on your phone before bed. Some experts recommend putting the phone away an hour before bedtime. 

Pick up a book instead. Reading can help manage stress and prepare your brain for sleep. Parents often read bedtime stories to children to help them wind down before sleep. The same practice can improve sleep for adults. 

Don’t eat or drink before bed. This includes drinking alcohol. Alcohol can negatively affect sleep. 

Watching what you eat or drink throughout the day can also be important for sleep. Eating spicy foods can make issues like acid reflux worse and cause heartburn when you lie down. Limit caffeine in the afternoons.  

Studies show eating certain foods can improve sleep. These can include nuts, avocado and some herbs. 

Moving throughout the day can help you fall asleep at night. The American Heart Association® recommends 150 minutes of activity a week, or 30 minutes a day for five days. 

Managing stress can also help with sleep troubles. Practice mindfulness or meditate before bed. 

See a doctor if improving sleep habits doesn’t help with your sleep. The CDC recommends keeping a sleep journal for about 10 days before visiting a doctor so you know what to discuss. 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine™ suggests trying to change habits before taking medication to help with sleep. Sleeping pills may not be the best option and can cause other problems. Be informed before taking any medication. Choosing Wisely has more information about sleeping pills on its website

*The CDC, the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine are independent organizations that provide health information you may find helpful.

This article contains links to third party sites. Those organizations are solely responsible for the contents and privacy policies on their sites.

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