National Sleep Awareness Week is March 14-20. The National Sleep Foundation began this observance to educate the public on the importance of sleep and how it affects overall health. To celebrate this week, Kristin L. Eckel-Mahan, PhD, assistant professor in the Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, provided her expert insight into how you can enjoy quality sleep.
Sleep and your overall health
Experts agree that sleep is on the same level of significance as healthy eating and exercise. Many vital things happen during your nightly rest to help prepare your body and mind for the following day.
“Sleep is important for muscle repair, immune response, memory consolidation, and other physiological processes,” said Eckel-Mahan.
Additionally, the quality of sleep determines the production of certain hormones that regulate appetite, growth, and stress.
The consequences of lack of proper rest range from irritating to dangerous, depending on how your circadian clock is disrupted.
Poor sleep can increase your chance of fatigue-related accidents and affects your ability to make quality decisions.
“Over time, sleep disruption can lead to an increased risk of several diseases and disorders, such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer,” said Eckel-Mahan.
Tips to improve your sleep
For healthy adults, experts suggest between seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Children and adolescents require more rest because they are still growing.
If you are frequently tired during the day and have trouble snoozing, Eckel-Mahan has three tips to improve your sleep hygiene.
- Limit blue light exposure at nighttime. The light from your phone, TV, or computer can delay your natural production of melatonin – ultimately, postponing your sleep.
- Get natural light during the day. Outdoor light exposure helps to align your internal clock with the external environment.
- Limit food intake late at night. Eating can trick your brain into wakefulness by producing insulin and activating certain organs meant to digest and metabolize food.
Implement these changes for yourself and your family to see an improvement in not only your sleep quality, but overall well-being.