Kelley Vargo by Kelley Vargo

The fact that you are reading this blog indicates you are probably interested in improving your health and wellbeing. You know exercise and good nutrition are incredibly important, and you may even work hard to manage your stress levels. But how much do you value your sleep? Do you make an effort to get the recommended seven to nine hours if sleep every night? 

If you don’t get that much sleep on a regular basis, you’re not alone. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. In other words, lack of sleep is no small problem and many of us probably show signs of sleep deprivation, including difficulty performing tasks, decreased cognitive function, irritability, grogginess, trouble staying awake, difficulty falling asleep and weight gain. 

The good news, is that there are some relatively easy steps you can take to make you’re getting enough sleep and, therefore, avoid that long list of negative symptoms. Here are some tips for improving both your quantity and quality of sleep.

1. Schedule your sleep.

Pick a time to go to sleep and a time to wake up and try to keep to the same schedule as much as possible. Sleep plays a huge role in managing weight, optimizing performance in sports and cognitive tasks, and in maintaining optimal physiological functions, so it only makes sense to schedule your sleep to maximize your health and wellness. And with the advent of DVR and Netflix, there is no reason to stay up late for shows. Make it a priority and schedule your sleep.

2. Downtime before bed.

You don’t have to follow a strict “one-hour” rule, but taking time to quiet down your brain before bed can make falling asleep a lot easier. Pick up a good book or spend some time relaxing. Make this part of your new bedtime routine and stick with it.

3. Avoid stimulants later in the day.

Caffeine affects everyone differently, but generally you want to avoid consuming highly stimulating beverages such as coffee and soda later in the day. These stimulants can make it a challenge to calm the brain down and fall asleep at night.

4. Keep the bedroom tech free.

One of the best things you can do to help ensure your brain and your body have time to rest and recover is to keep all electronics out of the bedroom. Televisions and computers can be a drain on quality sleeping time, and checking Facebook or Instagram in the wee hours of the morning is not going to help you get back to sleep.

5. Monitor your sleep.

To help me maintain a sleep routine, I keep a record of my sleep on my FitBit. I am able to review every night of sleep to see how many hours I slept and how restless I was. This helps me evaluate what might have been different on a given day and change behaviors to optimize my quality of sleep.