By Dr. Frank L. Urbano, MBA, FACP
Over the past two years, many of us have dealt with unconventional work arrangements, virtual school, and the 24-hour news cycle — all of which can contribute to stress and cause a lack of sleep.
Your bedroom may now even be your home office, and that can make it difficult to rest when you’re living and working in the same space. Reorganizing or hiding distractions like clutter and electronics can optimize your sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 45 percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days. It’s important to take stock of your sleep habits and ways you can improve your routine to achieve better sleep health.
Instead of counting sheep, consider some of these tips to help you develop better sleep habits:
- Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. It may not always be easy to achieve that many hours of sleep, but it can help lower risks associated with a number of health conditions, including a weakened immune system, anxiety, and depression. Try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you when it’s time to head to bed and help ensure you get enough Zs.
- Be consistent. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Being consistent with our sleep is as important as keeping a daily routine.
- Avoid food and beverages containing caffeine 6 to 8 hours before bed. The stimulant remains in your system and can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
- Exercise. Working out promotes more sound, restful sleep and is considered a natural remedy for insomnia. Consider incorporating light activities into your routine like walking or gardening once the weather is warm.
- Limit screen time. Bright light from your smartphone affects your brain before bed. It tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime, which can affect the natural production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall asleep. If you choose to keep your phone within reach at night, dim the brightness and use the Do Not Disturb function to block notifications at nighttime.
- Optimize your sleep environment. Eliminate distractions like clutter and electronics. Keep your room dark, quiet, and cool. You can even choose a paint color that promotes relaxation, like blue, yellow, or green.
Incorporating these steps into your daily routine can help foster an environment that is ideal for more restful Zs. What steps do you take to make sure you’re getting the best night’s sleep you can?
Dr. Frank L. Urbano, MBA, FACP is senior medical director for AmeriHealth New Jersey.