Local lifestyle columnists

The importance of getting a good night’s sleep

By From page D4 | March 02, 2014

Increasing demands and our busy schedules make proper sleep incredibly important.

Consistent bedtimes aren’t just for the kids anymore. With Sleep Awareness Week  March 2-9 and daylight saving time immediately following, this is a perfect time to reset your sleep habits as well as your clock.

Sleep is vital to our health and well being. How you feel during your waking hours has a great deal to do with how well you sleep. There is a cure for that. How, you might ask? Well, it’s found in your daily routine.

Your sleep schedule, bedtime habits and day-to-day lifestyle choices can make an enormous difference in the quality of your nightly rest. The key is to have well-planned strategies, which are essential to deep, restorative sleep you can count on, night after night. Having healthy sleep habits is often referred to as having good “sleep hygiene.”

Healthy sleep habits can make a big difference in your quality of life. Having healthy sleep habits is often referred to as having good “sleep hygiene.”

Learn how to avoid common enemies of sleep and try out a variety of healthy sleep-promoting techniques.

  • Get in the practice of going to bed and waking up at the same time, even on the weekends.

This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. When you are awake, expose yourself to sunlight. Our internal clocks respond well to light and dark. When you wake up, open the curtains or turn on a light. At night, turn lights down throughout the evening and off when it time for bed.

  • Avoid sleep offenders.

There are some things that will interfere with a good night’s sleep. Three of the biggest offenders are alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. If at all possible avoid these three things.

  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.

A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime, conducted away from bright lights, helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep, and remain asleep.

  • Exercise daily.

Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep. Exercise relaxes the body and calms the mind. Do not exercise right before bedtime. Always talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

  • Watch when you eat or drink

Avoid taking in large amounts of food or drink before bed. Doing so forces your body to digest those items while you are trying to get to sleep. It is suggested not to eat in the two hours before going to bed. Also, drinking excessive liquids before going to bed means extra trips to the bathroom.

  • Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.

For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.

Let it happen naturally. If you have followed all of these tips and sleep still doesn’t come, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor.

Betsy Campbell, MPH, CEHRS Senior Health Educator with Partnership HealthPlan of CA, a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.

Betsey Campbell, MPH


Discussion | 1 comment

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  • Jason KnowlesMarch 02, 2014 - 11:54 am

    Betsey, please send this to every school district in America. My high school starts at 7:45. The research on school performance related to sleep is overwhelming. It amazes me that school districts, who claim to base every decision regarding education on "research-based" ideas, fail to address one of the most basic problems in the same way. Starting school just an hour later, for teens, has been shown to make a huge improvement in their intellectual and social skills. Higher test scores, better focus, and fewer fights are but a few of the benefits.

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