One of the best things you can do for your health is also one of the most pleasurable: Sleep. Drifting off to dreamland "allows time for your mind and body to recover from the day's work, and these important processes are cut short when you don't get ample shut-eye," our friends at mayoclinic.org report. Missing out on that recovery time can increase your risk of developing a host of health challenges, including "weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression," according to the site.
But in our 24/7 world, sleep can be difficult to get. Blame Netflix. Or FOMO. But there are things you can do to increase the likelihood of catching some ZZZs. You can start by turning out the lights — including the one on your phone. "The body reacts to this artificial light as if it were still daytime," Pablo Castillo, M.D., tells The Washington Post. Dr. Castillo, a sleep medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic, explains that when this happens, "the pineal gland will stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin, resulting in poor sleep quality." To avoid that, the good doctor recommends setting devices on "night mode an hour or two before bed."
Light isn't the only sleep saboteur. Food and beverages can also conspire against a good night's rest. "Don't go to bed hungry or stuffed," say our mayoclinic.org friends. "Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too." Nicotine and caffeine can be stimulating. And while "alcohol might make you feel sleepy," it can "disrupt sleep later in the night." As can exercise. While a workout early in the day can "promote better sleep," being too active close to bedtime can lead to tossing and turning.
Your environment can also help or hinder your efforts. Cool, dark and quiet rooms seem to be the best nests for most people. To achieve ideal sleeping conditions, mayoclinic.org recommends "using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices." And for truly deep sleep, address your stress. Excessive worry can keep you awake.
Sleep is important for kids, too. "Younger kids should be getting at least eight to nine hours," Suresh Kotagal, M.D., says in this Mayo Clinic Minute. "Teenagers can get by on seven-and-half to eight-and-half." If your summer schedule (or non-schedule) has been lax in the sleep department, Dr. Kotagal encourages families to "start a gradual shift back to a normal sleep schedule about two to three weeks before school starts." Which sounds like good advice for next summer.
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