Although often taken for granted, the simple act of closing your eyes and falling asleep is one of your body’s best defenses. Sleep essentially “reboots” your entire body by repairing damaged tissue. Sleep has a restorative effect on the body, particularly on the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. It also keeps your brain functioning so you can think clearly and focus.1
People commonly think they can “get by” on less sleep than they really need without negative effects. But research shows this is simply not true. Sleeping less than 7-9 hours nightly increases your risk for many adverse health conditions. In addition, if you are sleep deprived, then you can have trouble fighting common infections.1
Why is Sleep so Important to Stay Healthy?
As mentioned above, the recommended amount of nightly sleep for an adult is 7-9 hours. Yet more than one-third of U.S. adults get fewer than seven hours of sleep nightly.2
Studies show that individuals who don’t get quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover when you do get sick.3,4
During sleep, your immune system releases specific protein messengers that help fight infection. Sleep deprivation decreases production of these protective proteins. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you aren’t getting enough sleep.3,4
To stay healthy and be your best self, try these tips to get a good night’s rest.
1. Create a Sleep-Friendly Atmosphere
The first step to sleep success is to create a supportive environment.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
- Use sleep masks, earplugs, room-darkening curtains, a fan, or a white noise machine (I use all of these).
- Reserve your bedroom for sleep and intimacy – not for checking emails, watching TV, and working.2,5,6
- Dim your household lights several hours before bedtime – exposure to indoor light can have a suppressive effect on melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.7
- Use blue blocking glasses such as Swanwick a few hours before to block the blue light and induce melatonin, which prepares your body for bed.
2. Go to Bed and Get Up at the Same Time Every Day
Your body has an internal clock, called the circadian rhythm. It regulates many functions including the sleep-wake cycle, hormone release, and digestion. Consistency is key to supporting your internal clock and getting restorative sleep.8,9
- Stick to the same sleep schedule, even on weekends.
- Consistency makes it easier for your body and brain to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.5-8
3. Don’t Use Alcohol as a Sleep Aid
After drinking alcohol, your brain produces the sleep-inducing chemical adenosine, which does allow you to fall asleep fast. But adenosine subsides quickly, making it more likely you’ll wake up frequently.10,11
- Having just two drinks daily can affect your sleep quality.10
- If you drink alcohol, then drink in moderation. And stop a few hours before bedtime so the alcohol can clear your system.
4. Limit Screen Time before Bedtime
Using a mobile device before bedtime decreases sleep quality and duration. The blue light emitted from a screen (computer, tablet, cell phone, tv) suppresses your production of melatonin.12
- Establish a nightly routine of turning off all electronics one hour before bedtime.
- Wind down with a quiet and relaxing activity like gentle stretching, writing in a journal, reading, or an epsom salt bath (I love these).5,6,8
5. Reduce Information Overload
Watching negative news before you go to bed can put your mind in an anxious state causing insomnia or other sleep problems.13
- Set limits on how much news programming you watch during a day’s time.
- Avoid screen time before bedtime – and make your bedroom a tech-free zone.
6. Exercise Regularly, but Timing is Crucial
Regular exercise helps you fall asleep and get better quality sleep.14,15 But revving your heartbeat too close to bedtime can wind you up, instead of down.
- Save vigorous exercise routines for the morning or afternoon.
- Research shows moderate-intensity exercise in the morning promotes deep sleep.14,15
7. Manage Stress
When you fall asleep, your body switches over from the active sympathetic nervous system to the calmer parasympathetic nervous system. However, if you’re overly worried, then the sympathetic nervous system doesn’t shut down, which keeps you from sleeping properly.16
- Resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime.
- Experiment with aromatherapy, deep breathing, journaling, or meditation.
Sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on your body and your mind. Although you might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep.
If you feel you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep, contact me — and take my FREE magnesium evaluation to determine if you are low in magnesium, a key nutrient for a good night’s sleep.
- Sleep deprivation and deficiency: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency [Accessed April 20, 2020]
- Sleep and sleep disorders. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html [Accessed April 20, 2020]
- Brain basics: Understanding sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm [Accessed May 27, 2015]
- Cirelli C. Definition and consequences of sleep deprivation. http://www.uptodate.com/home [Accessed May 4, 2020]
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. My road to better health: Sleep. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2011.
- Maski K. Insufficient sleep: Evaluation and management. UptoDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/insufficient-sleep-evaluation-and-management [Accessed April 20, 2020]
- Burgess H, Molina T. Home lighting before usual bedtime impacts circadian timing: a field study. Photochem Photobiol 2014;90(3):723‐726.
- Sleep Awareness Week, April 23-29, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Announcement: MMWR 2017;66(15):411. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6615a6.htm [Accessed April 20, 2020]
- Circadian rhythms. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx [Accessed April 20, 2020]
- Arnedt J. Insomnia in patients with a substance use disorder. UptoDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/insomnia-in-patients-with-a-substance-use-disorder [Accessed April 20, 2020]
- Lyndon D, Ram N, Conroy D, et al. The within-person association between alcohol use and sleep duration and quality in situ: An experience sampling study. Addict Behav 2016;61:68-73.
- Grandner M, Lang Gallagher R, Gooneratne N. The use of technology at night: Impact on sleep and health. J Clin Sleep Med 2013;9(12):1301-1302.
- Stress in America 2017: Technology and social media. American Psychological Association. http://www.stressinamerica.org/ [Accessed April 20, 2020]
- Fairbrother K, Cartner B, Alley J, et al. Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in pre-hypertensives. Vasc Health Risk Manag 2014;10:691-698.
- Varrasse M, Li J, Gooneratne N. Exercise and sleep in community-dwelling older adults. Curr Sleep Med Rep 2015;1:232-240.
- Parasympathetic nervous system. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0025459/ [Accessed April 20, 2020]