We all know that proper nutrition, supplementation and regular exercise are the foundation of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But did you know that getting enough sleep each night is just as important for your health? Let’s talk about some of the facts about sleep quality, along with some tips to help you get a good night’s rest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults (including older adults) get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night, yet nearly 40 percent of Americans get only six hours (or less) of sleep per night. Sleep quality impacts various factors of overall health and wellness including:

  • Hormone production
  • Energy levels
  • Mood
  • Cardiovascular, immune and brain health

Sleep deprivation may even affect your weight loss goals, despite engaging in regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet. Leptin, a hormone that transmits signals to the brain to regulate appetite control in the body, is dependent on the amount of time we sleep. Those who do not get enough sleep could be more likely to have larger appetites due to a normal drop of leptin in their bodies.

Inadequate sleep can also disturb the process of muscle development in our bodies. Anabolic hormones regulate the process of protein degradation (the breakdown of muscle), while catabolic hormones regulate the process of protein synthesis (the building of muscle). Poor sleep can simultaneously increase anabolic hormone levels and decrease catabolic hormone levels – definitely not the combination you want when trying to make fitness gains.

HERE ARE FIVE TIPS TO HELP IMPROVE SLEEP QUALITY:  

1) Manage stress daily.

  • Those who suffer from high stress levels tend to have poor sleep habits.
  • Try breathing exercises or yoga to help relieve daily stress.
  • Exercising regularly not only helps you stay physically fit, but it’s also a great way to relieve stress and improve sleep quality.   
  • Put away cell phones and laptops. Discontinue answering emails and messages for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Watch Dr. Lauren Horton and Dr. Misty Solt, mental health therapist, author and SMU Professor share additional strategies on powering down for the evening:

2) Create a sleep routine (yes, even on weekends).

  • Practice the same tasks each night before you go to bed to promote consistency in your pre-bedtime routine.
  • Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.
  • Consistency is the key! Your body will gradually start to anticipate when it is time to go to sleep and wake up.

3) Create a comfortable and relaxing sleeping environment.

  • Your sleep environment should promote a sense of calmness and coziness. Strive for an arrangement that fosters a good night’s rest, based on your personal preferences.
  • The area where you fall asleep should be cool (somewhere around 65 degrees F), dark, quiet and free of distractions (i.e. television, computer, phone, etc).
  • If necessary, try using black out curtains, a sleep mask, earplugs, and an AC unit or a fan to further reduce distractions and/or noise disturbances.

4) Avoid heavy meals, alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.

  • Large meals may disturb your sleep as laying down after eating a large quantity of food may cause heartburn or acid reflux. Spicy foods can also have a similar affect.
  • Additionally, studies show that drinking alcohol before sleep can cause sleep disturbances if consumed before bedtime. 
  • If you drink caffeine, try to have your last caffeinated food or beverage around six hours before bedtime.

5) Maintain an active lifestyle.

  • According to various research studies, increased physical activity often leads to increased sleep duration.
  • Sleep experts recommend exercising at least three hours prior to bedtime. Exercising at this time is beneficial because body temperature is related to sleep. The rise and drop of your body temperature may cue your body to begin feeling sleepy.

References

For more information on sleep health/quality, please visit National Sleep Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and Council for Responsible Nutrition.

cdc.gov
fda.gov
mayoclinic.org