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National Sleep Awareness Week: 6 evidence-based strategies for better rest with the help of Evidation

March 8, 2024
8 minutes
Lifestyle Health & Wellness
Sleep wellness strategies
Health tips

High-quality sleep and good health go hand-in-hand. March 10th-16th of 2024 is National Sleep Week, which provides the perfect reminder to check in with yourself and think about whether you're getting enough rest.

Prioritizing sleep, making adjustments that make it easier for you to fall and stay asleep, and paying attention to how your body feels when you get enough rest versus when your sleep is lacking can all work to support your well-being. Here, we'll explore why it can be tough to get enough sleep and some simple steps that you can take to make your shut-eye count.

Sleep Awareness Week: goals and challenges

Whether you're having trouble sleeping or just aren't waking up as rested as you'd like, Sleep Awareness Week is a great time to focus on making sure you're getting the best shut-eye possible.

If you struggle to get sleep that helps you feel your best, you're not alone. Common issues that can make it hard to get enough sleep include:

  • Anxiety and stress: If you're feeling constantly worried, dealing with a stressful life situation, or are living with an anxiety-related mental health condition, you may find that it's difficult to fall asleep.
  • Irregular schedule: Whether you work double shifts or are tending to a brand-new baby, having an irregular sleep schedule can take a toll on your mind and body.
  • Electronic device use: Blue light emitted from cell phones and other electronic devices interferes with your body's production of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin, making it tough for your body to maintain its natural sleep-wake schedule.
  • Caffeine: Drinking caffeine can keep your nervous system up and awake long after your body's preferred time to go to sleep.
  • Medical issues: Medical conditions like sleep disorders, chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory problems can all make sleep more difficult. Certain medications can also make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.

The importance of quality sleep

There are many factors that can make it difficult to get the sleep you need, and it's important to take steps to remedy and accommodate issues that make it harder to rest.

Risk factors associated with not getting enough sleep include:

The science is clear: getting enough high-quality, restful sleep is vital to your overall well-being. Let's take a look at some of the tips and tricks you can use to make your time asleep count.

1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule

While it can be tempting to stay up far too late one night and make up for it by sleeping in the next morning, experts agree that routine matters. Creating healthy sleep habits includes sticking to a schedule that makes sense for your sleep needs.

Most adults between 18 and 64 years of age need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, while those aged 65 or older typically need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night. Paying attention to the amount of rest that lets you feel your best can help you determine the bedtime and wake-up time that makes the most sense for your needs.

2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Nighttime routines aren't just a good idea for little ones—adults can benefit from having a step-by-step before-bed process as well.

Some tips for creating a bedtime routine that can help you optimize your sleep include:

As with most activities that contribute to your health, consistency matters. Understanding what makes a great sleep routine is fantastic, but it's necessary to actually implement the routine consistently to make a difference in your sleep.

3. Optimize your sleep environment

Creating an environment that supports high-quality sleep can both help you feel more comfortable and signal to your brain and your body that it's time to rest.

Creating a relaxing environment can help you relax. Clearing clutter is an important part of creating a bedroom environment that can help you drift off to dreamland. While it can be tempting to make your bedroom a catch-all space for laundry, projects, and other loose ends, doing so can make it difficult for the brain to shift from busy mode to rest mode.

Making your bedroom as dark as possible can also contribute to helping you get great rest. Using blackout curtains or an eye mask can help you block out any light, helping your brain to understand that it's time to sleep.

Sound control is vital for a good night's sleep. If you live in an area where you can't control the noise in or around your bedroom, using a white noise machine (or a white noise app) can help. Playing soothing music can also work to block out noise.

Temperature is also an important consideration for creating an environment that welcomes sleep. Most experts recommend that you keep your bedroom between 60 and 71 degrees, as excessive heat can make it harder for you to drift off.

4. Manage stress and anxiety for better sleep

There's no way around it—stress and anxiety are an unavoidable part of life. When these issues interfere with your sleep, you may begin to feel anxiety about your lack of sleep, creating a cycle that's difficult to break.

Adding some stress relief techniques into your day can make it easier for you to fall asleep at night. As we mentioned, meditation, breathing exercises, and stretching can all help your body wind down from stress.

Progressive muscle relaxation is a tool that many people find helpful to manage stress. Follow these steps to give it a try:

  • Sit or lie down comfortably.
  • Take a few deep breaths.
  • As you breathe, tense a muscle group, hold for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat this in muscle groups progressively, taking a moment to feel the difference between tension and relaxation at each level.
  • Repeat for muscle groups where you still feel tension.

If you're dealing with heavy life stressors, you don't have to try to handle it on your own. Talking with a licensed counselor or therapist can help you develop coping strategies unique to your situation that may make it easier for you to fall asleep.

5. Incorporate physical activity for improved sleep

It sounds counterintuitive, but getting exercise can help you fall asleep at night. Much like taking a hot bath or shower, exercise can raise your body temperature, and as your temperature lowers, your brain will have an easier time going into sleep mode.

Not everyone experiences the same effects from exercise, however. While some people find that the change in body temperature and boost in endorphins a good workout creates helps them fall asleep easily, others find that they feel energized after exercise. If you need time to wind down after you exercise, it's smart to leave at least two hours between the end of your workout and the start of your nighttime routine.

You don't have to go crazy to reap the benefits of exercise when it comes to getting better sleep. Adding just half an hour of aerobic activity to your day can help you sleep better that evening. The type of physical activity that you do doesn't matter—just find something you love and will be able to stick with over time.

6. Evaluate dietary habits impacting sleep quality

What you eat before bed matters, and carefully considering your choices at (and after) dinner can make a difference in how well you sleep. Taking stock of your current dietary habits and finding sleep-healthy adjustments can go a long way to support your overall sleep health.

You might want to forgo the glass of wine with dinner. While many people feel like alcohol helps them drift off to sleep, this positive effect is short-lived. Alcohol can disrupt the restorative stages of sleep, and can increase sleep apnea symptoms.

Eating high-fat and high-protein foods slows your body's digestion, and this can result in a lower quality of sleep. Fat and protein molecules take longer to break down than carbohydrates. Leaning heavier on the carbs in the evening—especially complex carbohydrates, like whole-wheat bread—can help you rest more easily.

Research suggests magnesium can help people who struggle to fall asleep. While more research is needed to determine the role that magnesium plays in supporting healthy sleep, adding magnesium to your diet may help you get the rest you need. In addition to taking a magnesium supplement, it can also be helpful to add foods high in magnesium to your diet, including greens, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains.

Getting high-quality sleep can help you feel energized, support a healthy immune system, and provide your body and mind with the time needed to rest and recharge. It can take some trial and error to discover which of the sleep tips discussed above are the best fit for you. It's a good idea to implement one tip at a time, allowing you to discover what works well for you. Small lifestyle changes can go a long way to set the scene for great sleep. 

If, despite your best efforts, you're still struggling to get restful sleep, it's important to reach out to your doctor to discuss other issues that may be making it difficult for you to rest.

Some other resources to explore as you embark on your sweet-dreams journey include:

Evidation: Here to support your sleep-well journey

At Evidation, we're here to help you get the most out of your health data by providing personalized, helpful insights that can support you as you work to take your health to the next level. We're passionate about supporting your health! Learn more about how Evidation works and download the app today.

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