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Hit the Hay

Why is sleep health important?

Woman asleep in bed
Session 6: But First, Sleep Well

Sleep, like proper nutrition and physical activity, is important in a person’s overall health and well-being. Poor sleep can cause daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and decreased mood and has been shown to result in poor health outcomes. Getting 6 or fewer hours of sleep each night may also provoke an increased appetite leading to the risk of weight gain and, in the longer term, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Sleep loss and untreated sleep disorders can also have a negative effect on your mental health, resulting in anxiety, depression, and irritability as well as problems with family and other relationships. Fatigue and sleepiness can reduce your ability to be productive and increase the chances for accidents, such as medical errors, motor vehicle accidents, or injuries related to work.

Adequate sleep is necessary to fight off infection, support how the body processes sugar to prevent type 2 diabetes, perform well in school, and work effectively and safely. It is recommended that adults get 7 hours of sleep per night.

Snoring is often associated with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA affects about 18 million Americans and risk factors include: being male, overweight, smoking, and over the age of 40; but, sleep apnea can affect almost anyone. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, memory problems, weight gain, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart attack.

Improve your sleep hygiene

Be consistent

  • Clock faceGo to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends.
  • Establish a pre-sleep routine; such as light reading for 10-20 minutes before falling asleep.
  • Avoid stressful, stimulating activities before bed. Exercise at least three hours before bed.
  • If you find your mind racing, keep a note pad by the bed to write down thoughts and then let them go.

Set the stage

Dark bedroomCreate a space with the ideal sleep conditions:

  • Keep the temperature comfortably cool (between 60-75 F).
  • Keep the room well ventilated.
  • Darken your space with heavy curtains and removal of electronic screens.
  • Go to sleep when you are tired; get out of bed if you do not fall asleep after 20
    minutes.

Manage intake

Cup of coffeeModifying eating habits can contribute to a good night's rest.

  • Lighten up on evening meals and avoid foods that cause indigestion.
  • Caffeine is a stimulant and should be avoided for 4-6 hours before bedtime.
  • Alcohol may initially promote sleep, but can act as a stimulant after a few hours; limit alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks/day and avoid drinking within 3 hours of bedtime.
  • Balance fluid intake by drinking enough fluid at night to keep from waking up thirsty, but not so much that you need to get up and use the restroom.

Helpful educational materials and videos

References