Nutrition-wise blog

For your health make it a habit to get adequate sleep

By Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. and Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. May 29, 2014

Throughout 2014 we're talking about the 12 Habits of Highly Healthy People, and this month we will discuss getting adequate sleep. It may be obvious that not getting enough sleep makes people irritable and unable to concentrate. However, there are numerous reasons besides a bad mood that makes sleep an important lifestyle factor.

Sleep is vital for good health and wellbeing. Adequate sleep is important for appetite and weight management — a key to preventing many chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Stress is a major contributor to disrupted sleep. In addition, as we age sleep becomes less efficient, lighter and often less restful.

More than 35 percent of adults report getting less than 7 hours a sleep a night. People who don't get sufficient sleep are at greater risk for chronic chronic health problems, as well as from cancer, increased mortality and reduced quality of life.

Try these tips to improve your sleep:

  • Be consistent. Stick to a regular bedtime and wake time.  Consistency reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle. Try to go to bed and get up at roughly the same times every day, including weekends and holidays.
  • Keep your room dark and quiet. Daylight, other lights or noise can disrupt sleep. Eliminate these disruptions with window coverings, and by closing doors and windows.
  • Be physically active. Regular physical activity helps you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. If vigorous activity within 2 hours of bedtime stimulates you, try exercising earlier in the day.
  • Enjoy the early morning sunlight. Consider having your breakfast in a sunny spot. Avoid bright lights 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. This can help regulate the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep.
  • Watch what you're drinking. Caffeine and alcohol can disrupt your sleep, especially when enjoyed too close to bedtime. Stay hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day, rather than just in the evening, to avoid too many middle of the night trips to the bathroom.
  • Shut off your mind. If you find you wake up at night bothered by thoughts, get up and write down your ideas, read or do another quiet activity to slow down your mind.
  • Unplug. Keep your bedtime routine free of television, laptop and and other portable devices.

Opportunities to explore:

  • Check with your local clinic or health center regarding healthy sleep classes or information.
  • Review your daily schedule, food and beverage choices, and bedtime routine to see what factors might be helping or hindering your sleep.

Take steps to improve your sleep and your health. Strive for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. What do you believe are the benefits of a good night's sleep? What is your routine? Or what have you changed?

May 29, 2014