Tag Archives: sleep

Sleep Quantity and Quality Is Important to Your Health

Sleep is essential to overall health, but it’s usually one of the first things to suffer when people are under stress or pressed for time. Sleep often falls low on people’s list of priorities behind work, family obligations, chores, socializing, and entertainment. But skimping on sleep can have a big impact on long-term health and can negatively affect your mental clarity and emotional health in the short run.


How’s Your Sleep Hygiene?

We’ve all heard about the importance of food hygiene, as well as personal hygiene, dental hygiene, and even workplace hygiene. But sleep hygiene? What does sleep have to do with keeping things clean and healthy? It turns out that sleep hygiene is related to health: to the healthy practices that lead to a good night’s sleep. The National Sleep Foundation defines sleep hygiene as “a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.”

How’s Your Sleep Hygiene?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 35 percent of adults in the United States suffer from “short sleep duration,” that is, fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. Further CDC reports show that short sleep duration “impairs [the] ability to perform daily tasks,” and that “Chronic sleep deprivation also has a cumulative effect on mental and physical well-being and can exacerbate chronic diseases.” Are you among the over one-third of Americans who do not get enough sleep? Read on to learn how the experts suggest you improve your sleep hygiene for a better night’s rest.

According to Harvard Medical School and others here and here, there are many concrete steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene:

  1. Reduce caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.  Alcohol may seem to make you sleepy, but it actually decreases your sleep quality.
  2. Create a sleep-friendly environment. You can do this by limiting light, noise, and the chance of interruptions. Keep TVs, computers, and work out of the bedroom to keep it a place for sleep. If you must have a phone or tablet, make sure it has a blue light filter or night mode, as studies have shown that the blue light from screens can disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle.
  3. Create a pre-sleep routine to prepare your body for sleep. If you have insomnia or have difficulty falling asleep, try these methods from the National Institutes of Health.
  4. Try to sleep only when you’re ready to sleep. If you’re lying in bed for over 20 minutes, get out of bed and read a book or do something relaxing before trying again to get back to sleep.
  5. Connect your body to the sun’s rising and setting to achieve a more natural rhythm.
  6. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Try to get up and go to sleep at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  7. Avoid naps, or take them as early as possible during the day.
  8. Eat and drink earlier, reducing intake before bed.
  9. Exercise earlier,too, to keep your body physiology read for sleep.
  10. Be consistent with all of these before writing them off. If your sleep hygiene is impeccable, but you’re still having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about possible medical conditions that may be affecting your sleep.



Darker Days: Sleep and Nutrition As Daylight Hours Get Shorter

Have you ever read about what bears do in the fall? They gorge themselves to put on more weight, which will insulate them during the cold winter months and provide nutrients during their hibernation. They are prompted both by the colder temperatures and also by the shortening days. The longer hours of darkness cue the bears’ internal clocks to begin the process of getting ready to hibernate.

Sleep and Nutrition As Daylight Hours Get Shorter

Unfortunately, humans’ internal clocks have not yet evolved from doing something similar. As the hours of daylight get shorter, our bodies want to pack on the pounds and get ready for hibernation. That’s why in the fall and winter, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to your eating and sleeping habits.

The lack of daylight during the fall and winter hours leads to a lack of serotonin, which regulates mood and food cravings. To buck your body’s desire to hibernate, trick it into thinking that the days aren’t really getting shorter by making sure to take as much time outside in the sunshine as possible. If sunlight is truly unavailable, try using a light therapy box—recommended for the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that affects up to six percent of the population during the winter.

You can also resist your body’s desire to hibernate by making sure to get plenty of sleep at night. When we’re overtired, we’re likely to eat more to keep ourselves going through the day. Getting more sleep at night might mean cutting down on screen time before bed; studies have shown that the blue light from tablet and phone screens is especially damaging to sleep because it suppresses the production of melatonin, which regulates sleep.

Another good way to stay healthy during the winter is to eat more protein throughout the day, especially for breakfast. We often crave carbohydrates for comfort, but starchy foods are more likely to make us want to sleep rather than giving us energy to work. Make sure your breakfast and lunch include protein, like turkey or tofu, sausage or eggs, to keep you going at work. And read more here about healthy winter eating tips from our nutrition program, The Right Choice … for a Healthier You.