5 Ways to Make Sure You Are Getting The Most Out of Sleep

Sleep is an underrated part of health that many of us take for granted. Quality sleep gives your body time to recover from the day and reset important factors for mental and physical health.

Many mental as well as physical health issues stem from lack of sleep or poor sleep patterns and can negatively impact your quality of life. Practicing good habits, or sleep hygiene, is an important way to ensure your body is getting enough of this essential function and keep your body and mind as healthy as possible. Here are 5 useful sleep hygiene practices to follow:

1. Consistent times for sleeping and waking.

Developing consistent sleep habits helps your body know what to expect and can make falling asleep easier and the quality of sleep better. Try to go to sleep and wake up around the same times every day. Fluctuating bedtimes and wake times can leave you lying in bed awake at night or struggling to wake up in the morning.

2. Create a space just for sleeping.

The place where you sleep should be dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. Use room darkening blinds if light pollution from outside is getting in or if you work night shift and sleep during the day. Use a box fan or a white noise machine to ensure that outside or neighboring noises aren’t disruptive. And make your bed a comfortable place only intended for sleep; doing paper or computer work from your bed, or even watching TV or playing video games, can make it difficult to relax in the same space later. 

3. Separate screens and sleep. 

One of the easiest (and worst) habits to fall into is using screens to fall asleep. Anyone from toddlers to adults watching videos, playing games, or watching TV to fall asleep is affected. Our brains interpret the blue light from TVs, phones, and tablets as sunlight and this disrupts the production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone. It can take much longer than normal to fall asleep, or even if you fall asleep quickly it can lead to poor quality of sleep that doesn’t totally recharge you. Even if you take an OTC melatonin supplement, your brain won’t use it properly in the presence of screens. This habit can take several weeks to correct. Try to turn off all screens 30-60 minutes before going to bed to let your brain know it’s time to sleep! Replace your usual scrolling or watching with quiet, screen-free activities like reading, taking a bath, doing a puzzle, or sitting outside before going to sleep and keep TVs out of the bedroom.

4. Plan for the right amount of sleep. 

Depending on your age, the amount of sleep needed may vary, so plan accordingly. If you consistently stay up until just 4-5 hours before your morning alarm goes off, you are depriving your body of needed hours of rest, a deficit that adds up over time and creates strain on the body. Follow recommendations for how much sleep is needed according to age, and then ensure that bedtime is planned with enough time to get those hours before you need to be up the next day.

⦁ Adults need between 7-9 hours to function at their best

⦁ Teens need between 8-11 hours (yes, they really do need more sleep!)

⦁ School age children need 9-12 hours

⦁ Toddlers need 11-14 hours (which includes naps)

⦁ Infants ages 4-12 months need 12-16 hours (including naps)

5. Get sleep issues checked out.  

If you are following general guidelines for good sleep hygiene and still finding yourself lying awake at night or waking in the mornings feeling like you didn’t rest at all, it may be time to see a healthcare professional and get evaluated for a sleep disorder. Chronic fatigue, insomnia, snoring, or trouble breathing while sleeping all indicate there may be an underlying health problem. Your provider will take a detailed sleep history and may order lab work or a sleep study to evaluate the problem further. Depending on their findings, supplements, medications, and even breathing machines used at night can be prescribed to correct underlying issues and get you on your way to a restful night’s sleep.

About the Author

Sarah Schulze, NP

Sarah Schulze is a certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, specializing in Behavioral Mental Health medication management for children, teenagers, and young adults. Her mission is to establish effective and lasting health practices, so that a client can optimize their quality of life. In her previous experience, Sarah has worked as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, where she provided services to clients ages 0 to 23 years-old in a private medical practice. She has experience working with ADHD, ODD, OCD, and other mental health issues.

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