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Good Sleep Can Improve Your Health

Tips to set you up for sleep success

By Pamela A. Keene

Good Sleep Can Improve Your Health

Photos courtesy of American Sleep Medicine Association

How well are you sleeping? Do you toss and turn? Does it take a long time to fall asleep? Throughout the day, do you feel drowsy? The quantity and quality of sleep can affect your overall health in surprising ways.

“Sleep is vital to good health and wellness, no matter your age,” says Raj Dasgupta, MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “When you think about it, people spend one-third of their lives sleeping. If you live to age 90, that’s 30 years of sleep.”

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at least seven hours of sleep for adults. However, just being in bed, tossing and turning, doesn’t mean your sleep is effective in helping your organs, brain and body rejuvenate.

“As physicians, we measure the effectiveness of sleep by both quantity and quality,” says Dr. Dasgupta. “If you’re not getting the right amount of sleep to meet your individual needs, and your quality of sleep is poor, meaning your mind and body are not going to the deeper stages of sleep or REM sleep, you are at higher risk for such ailments as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It may sound easy to aim for good sleep but in reality, a number of factors can make it harder than you think.”

Dasgupta says that people having difficulty initiating sleep, maintaining sleep or feeling unrefreshed despite having adequate time to sleep for more than three times a week over three months should strongly consider talking with their physician. Keeping a log or journal of sleep and daytime symptoms can assist with identifying possible causes.

Setting and sticking to a regular bedtime routine includes managing the noise, light levels and temperature of your bedroom, which can help improve your sleep. Here are other tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for improving sleep:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
  • Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least seven hours of sleep.
  • Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
  • If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
  • Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
  • 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.
  • Exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
  • Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
“Healthy sleep is as important as proper nutrition and regular exercise for our health and well-being,” says Dr. Dasgupta. “And, since most of us are sleeping about 30 percent of our lives, why not prioritize these sleeping hours to maximize all their benefits?”

About the Author

Pamela A. Keene is a freelance journalist who writes for magazines and newspapers across the Southeast and nationally.

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