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Five Sleep Tips for Better Health

For many people, solid sleep can feel like a "nice to have" option instead of a necessity for robust health. Numerous studies have connected sleep to everything from lower stress levels and higher immune system function to more efficient digestion and even better work productivity. Yet, many people aren't getting the kind of quality sleep that leads to these advantages. Let’s change that. Here are some simple sleep tips to get your ZZZs and the health benefits that come along with it.

1. Create a schedule and stick to it.

Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night is important, but it's not just the amount of sleep that's crucial, it's also the regularity of your schedule. A recent study found that not sticking to the same bedtime and wake-up time frame put people at much higher risk of metabolic disorders such as obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and high blood sugar. Need some help? Check out this list of sleep apps like Awoken and Sleep Cycle that can help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and monitor your sleep patterns.  

2. Get regular exercise.

Regardless of whether you jump around in Zumba, take leisurely walks at your lunch hour, or lift weights a few times a week, your sleep will benefit, according to research that looked at numerous types of exercise and sleep efficiency. Plus, the study noted that it works in the other direction as well — better sleep leads to more energy for exercise, providing all the benefits that increased activity brings. Need some motivation? Fitness trackers can help you stay on track and many even include sleep tips or sleep quality functions.

3. Change your mattress.

Nearly 75 percent of Americans report they have sleep problems a few nights a week or more while about the same number have back pain symptoms each year. Are the two connected, and could a new mattress help ease both problems? One study suggests that could be the case with research participants reporting less back pain and better sleep quality after just 28 days with a new bedding system. Check out Saatva, an affordable mattress that’s engineered for back health.

4. Get mindful.

Focusing on stress reduction techniques, especially just before bed, can have significant effects not just on your sleep quality but also on your weight management. Strategies like meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and visualization can all help lower cortisol levels and improve sleep as a result. As an added bonus, lower cortisol translates to better metabolism, one study notes.

5. Consider OTC options.

Even just a couple nights of poor sleep can have a detrimental effect on your body. For example, one study found that two nights of partial sleep deprivation caused changes in gut health for research participants, leading researchers to conclude that more sleep loss could potentially cause long-term problems with digestion. If you're experiencing brief sleep disruption — for instance, with jet lag or schedule changes — consider an over-the-counter option like melatonin, which can help reset your internal clock to help you sleep. Another choice is cannabidiol, known as CBD, which has been shown to help with anxiety and insomnia, and Harvard Health notes it can help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.

Following these 5 sleep tips should start to improve your sleep within a couple weeks, if not sooner. However, if you're experiencing more than occasional daytime sleepiness, find yourself drowsy while driving or at work, or you're told you snore loudly and abruptly, you may have a more serious sleep disorder.

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