Looking for easy ways to live healthier? you can work on wellness while you sleep.
Benefits of sleep: From A to Zzzz
There’s not quite a benefit for every letter of the alphabet, but scientific studies have shown that sleep has a wide variety of health benefits. According to the National Institutes of Health, reasons to hit the hay include:
- Better overall health: Studies suggest that getting enough sleep can improve your immunity to ailments like the common cold. Additionally, studies show a link between a lack of sleep and serious health problems—from heart disease and heart attacks to diabetes and obesity.
- Weight control: Studies show that sleep can help maintain a healthy weight, while lack of sleep can increase the risk of weight gain.
- Better memory and cognition: According to research, our brains process our memories when we sleep, so good sleep helps us remember things better. In addition, poor sleep impairs cognition, attention span and decision making abilities.
- Better mood: Ever get a bit cranky when you haven’t slept well? You’re not alone. Studies show that not getting enough sleep affects your ability to regulate your emotions.
10 tips for better sleep
Now that we know that sleep is important, the real trick is getting to sleep and getting quality sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following tips might help you sleep sounder:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at approximately the same. (Yes, even on the weekends.)
- Create a getting-to-sleep routine: Starting an hour or so before bed, turn the lights down and do something relaxing like reading a book or taking a bath each night.
- Optimize your sleep space: Experts say the ideal room for sleeping is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool. Additionally, mattresses and pillows can harbor allergens that keep you awake. Mattresses should be replaced after seven years and pillows should be replaced every year.
- Leave your devices in the other room: Televisions, smartphones, laptops, and other devices should stay out of the bedroom. Not only are devices distracting, but the glow of electronics can trigger chemicals in the brain that tell your body to stay awake.
- Write down anything that’s causing stress or anxiety: If you can’t keep your mind off of work or other stresses, writing them down can help you relax. Jot down your worries an hour before you go to bed and leave the list in the other room.
- Exercise, but exercise early. Regular strenuous exercise is proven to help people sleep better. Just be sure to finish any vigorous exercise at least two hours before you go to bed.
- Eat light at night. Stay away from heavy meals late at night, they overload your digestive system and can disrupt sleep. Try to finish eating 2-3 hours before bed.
- Cut out caffeine after lunch. Effects of drinking caffeine can last eight hours or more. So, replace your coffee, tea, and soda with water after lunch.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. Many people think that alcohol makes you sleepy, but the process of digesting alcohol can keep you awake and leads to less restful sleep. A glass of wine might help you relax after work, but experts recommend avoiding alcohol for four hours before bed.
- Can’t get to sleep? Get up. If you can’t get to sleep for 15 minutes, do not lay in bed worrying about not sleeping. Get up, leave the bedroom, and do a relaxing activity (like reading in low light) for a little while.
Get started today
Download the YMCA of the USA’s Sleep Quick Start Kit designed to help you and your family set sleep goals you can achieve. Sleep is one of five parts of the Y-USA’s Healthy Family Home initiative, which focuses on small steps you can take to feel stronger and live healthier. Learn more about the Healthy Family Home program.