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Understanding Good Quality Sleep

Posted on 2016-09-23

According to the National Sleep Foundation, poor quality sleep is strongly associated with poor health. In fact, as many as 67 percent of people who report that their sleep quality is low also report that their health is suffering. Although diminished quality of sleep is sometimes associated with factors out of your control, such as working the night shift or caring for a newborn baby, it is often the result of poor decision-making at bedtime. Below is some information to help you create a healthy bedtime routine and improve your overall health. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that people who get enough sleep will enjoy the following benefits:

  • • Clear thinking. 
  • • Better decision making. 
  • • Lower risk of serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. 
  • • Better chances of maintaining a healthy weight. 
  • • Less chance of getting sick. 
  • • Reduced stress. 
  • • Improved mood. 

In order to enjoy these benefits, you need to get an adequate amount of sleep. For adults, this means getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. However, sleep must also be of good quality, which means that you must complete several full sleep cycles throughout the night without interruptions. 

Bedtime Routine Tips

To ensure that you enjoy restful, restorative sleep every night, use these tips to create a healthy bedtime routine. 

1. Set a consistent bedtime schedule. 

Setting a consistent bedtime schedule and sticking to it ensures that you are able to get the full amount of sleep you need each night. Having a bedtime schedule also helps you get into the habit of winding down at the same time every night so that you can fall asleep more quickly and wake up feeling refreshed. To maintain a healthy bedtime schedule, choose a bedtime that allows you to get the amount of sleep you need and adhere to that bedtime every night, regardless of your plans for the following day. In addition, you should also try to wake up at the same time each day, even if you have the ability to sleep in. 

2. Plan your workout for the following morning. 

Regular exercise helps you improve your physical fitness and maintain a healthy weight. Following an exercise program can also improve the quality of your sleep. Before you go to bed each night, plan your workout for the following morning. You should also use this time to lay out your clothes and/or pack your gym bag so you won’t have any excuse to skip your workout. Not only will this save you time when you wake up, but it will also help you begin each day with a positive, ambitious mindset. 

3. Prepare meals. 

Eating nutritious meals is another excellent way to improve your sleep quality and your overall health. Make it easier to follow a healthy diet by completing meal prep for the next day before you go to bed. Depending on your goals and schedule, you may use this time to pack a healthy lunch or even begin dinner prep for the following evening. 

4. Practice nighttime stretching or foam rolling.

Throughout the day, you deal with a variety of stressors that cause your muscles to tighten. When you try to lay down for bed, you may notice that you feel sore and uncomfortable. Stretching out your muscles before bedtime can help you to release the tension and relax so that you can sleep soundly. One of the best ways to relax your muscles is with foam rolling: a process that involves stretching with the aid of a self-massaging tool known as a “foam roller.” Foam rolling can be used to release tension in your back, neck, legs, arms and chest. If you don’t want to purchase a foam roller, you can work out some of the tightness with some basic stretching exercises. 

5. Unwind to fall asleep faster. 

If you are still highly active five minutes before bedtime, you aren’t going to be able to fall asleep quickly. To decrease the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep, start unwinding long before you plan to go to bed. In general, you should start relaxing at least 30 minutes before your planned bedtime. However, some people find that an hour of relaxation is even more beneficial. Consider spending some time on the couch with family, reading a book or taking a warm bath. 

6. Avoid bright screens before bedtime. 

According to recent research, the screens of electronic gadgets give off blue and white light that may make it more difficult to go to sleep. When it gets dark outside, your brain begins producing melatonin, which is a hormone that helps you fall asleep. However, if you are exposed to high levels of blue and white light from an electronic device, your brain may be unable to produce the correct amount of melatonin, making it more difficult to fall asleep at bedtime. To improve your brain’s ability to produce melatonin, avoid looking at any screens for at least a half hour before heading to bed. 

7. Watch your nighttime food intake. 

Certain foods may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep and enjoy a restful night. As bedtime grows closer, stop consuming foods that contain caffeine, as this substance may cause insomnia. You should also avoid any foods that cause you to experience indigestion or heartburn.