Sleep is essential to every process in the body, and getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health and feel your best.

Why you need sleep

It was once thought that sleep was a time when the body and brain were inactive, but it turns out that while we sleep, our brains are engaged in a number of activities necessary for life:

  • Brain health: If you’ve ever felt “foggy” after a poor night of sleep, it won’t surprise you that sleep impacts brain function. The amount of sleep we get impacts “brain plasticity,” or our ability to adapt to new input. If we sleep too little, we have a hard time learning during the day and remembering in the future. A lack of sleep can also lead to depression and headaches.
  • Body health: Getting enough sleep is not just necessary for energy throughout the day; sleep impacts every aspect of our physical health including our ability to maintain a healthy weight and fight disease. A lack of sleep is associated with symptoms of high blood pressure, pre-diabetes and an increased likelihood of illness and infection.  

How much sleep is enough?

If you’re not getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night, you are not alone. According to a Gallup poll, 40% of Americans are sleeping an average of 6.8 hours a night. That may not seem like a big difference, but those missed hours can add up to big impacts in your health. Here are some tips to help you get a better night’s rest.

Tips for getting better sleep

  1. Create and stick to a sleep schedule.
    Our lives can be hectic, but going to bed and getting up at the same time each day can help train your body and mind for rest and reinforce your sleep-wake cycle.
  2. Watch what you eat and drink.
    Most people know that too much caffeine can keep you up, but so can alcohol, too much food, and even too little food. Making small changes to what you eat and drink before bed can make a big impact on your sleep.
  3. Get regular exercise.
    Try to move for at least 30 minutes each day. And try to get outside if possible. Activities like going for walks, gardening, and playing with your children count too!
  4. Limit screen time before bed.
    Studies have shown that two or more hours of screen time before bed can disrupt your body’s melatonin levels (the hormone you need to fall asleep). Try reading a book, taking a bath, working on a puzzle or another screen-free activity at least an hour before bed.
  5. Talk to your doctor.
    If these tips don’t help, reach out to your primary care provider. They can help identify and treat any underlying causes that are keeping you from getting your best sleep possible.