Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. The way you feel while you're awake depends in part on what happens while you're sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.
1. Resist the urge to snooze!
Sleep caught between soundings of that alarm is just not high-quality sleep. The snooze button often disturbs REM sleep, which can make us feel groggier than when we wake up during other stages of sleep. You don't have to launch out of bed in the morning, but setting the alarm for a slightly later time and skipping a snooze cycle or two could bring big benefits.
2. Go easy on the alcohol before bed.
While that nightcap really can make it feel easier to fall asleep, when your buzz wears off later in the night, you're more likely to wake up frequently.
3. Keep your bedroom dark.
Even the most inconspicuous glow -- like that from a digital alarm clock -- can disrupt your shut-eye. If you can't seal up all the light sources in your room, consider using a comfy eye-mask.
4. Power down an hour before bed.
Dim the lights and turn off all your devices -- smartphones, laptops, TVs, all of which belong outside the bedroom -- about 60 minutes before bedtime. Bright light is one of the biggest triggers to our brains that it’s time to be awake and alert, so start sending the opposite signal early.
5. Cut caffine by the early afternoon.
Your afternoon jolt stays in your system longer than you might think. Experts recommended laying off the caffeine by early afternoon to guarantee it won't keep you up in bed later. Instead of coffee, try drinking a glass of ice cold water, taking a walk, or calling a friend.
6. Exercise regularly.
In the National Sleep Foundation's 2013 Sleep In America survey, regular, vigorous exercisers reported getting the best sleep. The best news is that it doesn't take much: Adding even just a few minutes of physical activity to your day can make a difference in your rest. Just make sure to exercise a couple hours before bed. Exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps activate the alerting mechanism in the brain.
7. Avoid heavy meals when it's late.
Your body isn't meant to be digesting while you sleep, so a big meal too close to bedtime may keep you up at night. Protein is especially hard to digest, so if you haveto eat late, opt for lighter fare.
8. Reserve the bed for sleep and sex only.
Reading in bed is a form of relaxation, right? Yes... and no. A page-turner, a mystery or any other book that demands your emotional and intellectual attention may be more distracting than relaxing. Opt for lighter reading before bed, and keep it to the couch or your favorite comfy chair.
9. Keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule, even on weekends.
Sticking to your work-week sleep and wake schedule over the weekend sounds like torture to most of us, but it's actually a wise move where sleep is concerned. Staying up and sleeping in later than normal can shift your body's natural clock in the same way that cross-country travel does. This so-called social jet lag can make it extra difficult to fall asleep when Sunday night rolls around, making for even more unpleasant Monday mornings.
10. Work through your thoughts about the day before getting into bed.
Anyone who finds his or her mind racing in bed may not have taken enough time to process the day first, Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., instructor of psychiatry at the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania told HuffPost in 2013. “A better approach would be [to] take some time in the evening to work through the day, make lists to do tomorrow and clear your mental desktop of the stuff that you still have to think about,” he says. “Then, get into bed.” If other relaxation tricks won’t cut it, get literal with those racing thoughts and put them on paper in a worry journal you keep by your bedside. Clearing your mind of this mental clutter can help you drift off more smoothly.