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Tips to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

A young man sleeps soundly in bed

by Dr. Matthew Toohey

Did you know the quality of sleep you get every night affects your overall health? Sleep helps repair your body overnight and helps you function properly during the day. Over time, a lack of sleep can negatively affect your heart health, blood pressure, and even your weight. If you’ve been feeling lethargic lately or just want to make sure you’re getting the best sleep possible, here are some questions to ask yourself.

Are You Getting the Right Amount of Sleep?

The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. This can vary based on your activity level during the day and your current health. If you have the flu or a cold, you should get even more sleep to help your body recover.

If you continually miss sleep, you might accumulate sleep debt. This is the difference between the amount of sleep you should get and the amount you did get. To reduce your sleep debt, you can take naps and go to sleep earlier or sleep in later than normal.

Do You Have Good Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene refers to lifestyle habits that affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, as well as the quality of your sleep. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule (i.e., going to bed and waking up around the same time every day) and forming night and morning routines are great habits that can improve your sleep hygiene.

You can also try reducing your stress levels, lowering the brightness and temperature of your bedroom, and limiting screens and blue light before bed. Remember that a healthy diet and daily exercise will improve all aspects of your health, including your sleep hygiene.

What Are You Consuming?

A healthy diet is just one step toward improving your sleep. Things like caffeine and alcohol can negatively impact your quality of sleep, even if you consume them hours before going to bed. Try to avoid them in the late afternoon, or cut back on the total amount. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can also affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Ask your primary care provider (PCP) about the side effects of any medication you take.

How Is Your Sleep Quality?

A great way to learn more about the quality of your sleep is to use a wearable sleep tracker. These can monitor your heart rate and movement throughout the night to give you an idea of your sleep stages. When you’re more aware of the quality of the sleep you’re getting, you’re more likely to make up any sleep debt that you may have acquired.

When Was Your Last Physical Exam?

If you’ve tried these tips and still feel run down, a visit to your PCP may be in order. Your annual checkup is a great time to let your PCP know about any abnormal symptoms, like consistent lethargy. They can test your bloodwork for vitamin deficiencies, anemia, or anything else that may affect your sleep. If your PCP is familiar with your lifestyle habits, they can also make personalized recommendations that may help you sleep better at night.

Dr. Matthew Toohey is the Network Medical Director for AmeriHealth New Jersey.