Getting enough sleep can help you maintain your weight, fight disease, and prevent illness. It also helps your brain function better by storing memories and processing new information you learn during the day.
Medical school and residency upset this balance, directly and indirectly, by requiring on-call work and studying during the day, which interrupts sleep. Fortunately, policies and wellness classes help students and residents to develop healthier sleep habits.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
Sleep is a key part of your overall health. It plays a major role in everything from your mood and brain health to your immune system and your creativity.
The body’s alternating sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm, is partly controlled by an internal clock within your brain (see our fact sheet about the body clock). Working with your body clock instead of against it can improve your sleep quality and help you feel more energized.
Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including at weekends. This will reinforce your body’s circadian rhythm and reduce grogginess in the morning.
Set a regular bedtime
When your body goes to bed and wakes up at the same time every day, it gets used to that schedule and makes it easier for you to fall asleep.
It’s also important to avoid activities that disrupt your sleep, such as watching TV, playing video games, and reading a book. These habits cause your body to associate your bed with wakefulness, which can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Creating a routine that includes relaxing activities, like a bath, a warm drink, or taking a walk can help you wind down before bed and get into the best state of mind for sleep. These relaxation techniques separate your sleep from the other activities of your day and help you relax your brain so it produces less cortisol, a hormone that increases stress.
One of the best ways to develop healthy sleep habits and improve your overall sleep quality is by getting regular exercise. Research has shown that a daily dose of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking, running, or biking) can help you fall asleep more quickly and feel better rested the following day.
It also helps promote slow-wave sleep, the most restorative phase of sleep, and boosts your immune system, heart health, and muscle repair.
However, you must avoid vigorous workouts right before bed. They can cause your body to heat up too much, which can suppress your melatonin levels and make it harder to fall asleep.
Avoid screen time before bed
Whether it is a game, a TV show, or an app on your phone, screen time before bed can have a negative impact on your sleep. It can disrupt your body’s natural rhythm, suppress melatonin production and leave you feeling groggy in the morning.
You can avoid this by putting your phones and tablets away before you go to bed. It is best to turn them off for about 30 minutes before you get into bed.
This will help you relax and wind down before bedtime, rather than being tempted to check your emails or watch an addictive video game. Ultimately, the more your family can avoid screen time before bed, the better quality of sleep you’ll all get.