Crossroads Fitness Blog

Crossroads Fitness Blog

Sleep plays important role in maintaining health

April 24, 2024

While diet and exercise constitute key components of a healthy lifestyle, don’t underestimate the importance of sleep. You’re already a sleep expert. You have been since you were born. Yet, quality sleep could elude you in a fast-paced society that fills every moment of your day with work, activities and screen time.   

Quality sleep is vital for overall good health and well-being. Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep or good quality sleep are at a higher risk for health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. That’s not to mention such mental health issues as anxiety and depression.  

The benefits of good quality rest are bountiful. Getting enough sleep strengthens your immune system and enables your body to fight illness. Sleep also has a direct link to maintaining a healthy weight and is good for your heart by lowering blood pressure while you sleep. Good sleep can eliminate fatigue, leaving you more productive, creative and happier. Sleep is a big deal.

How much sleep is enough? Most adults need between 7 hours and 9 hours of sleep. “Some people need less than seven hours, while others might need more,” said Eric Zhou with the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Instead of focusing exclusively on the number of hours we sleep per night, we should also consider our sleep quality.” 

Sleep quality is how well you sleep, whether you slept through the night or woke up numerous times. The key is to wake up refreshed and have energy for the day.

Many factors lead to sleep difficulties. It might be such health issues as high blood pressure or sleep apnea. Another factor is the environment in which you sleep. Temperature, noise and light all affect sleep quality.

There are many things you can avoid to help you sleep better. Try the 10, three, two, one and zero rule for sleep. Avoid caffeine 10 hours before bed. Avoid large meals and alcohol at least 3 hours before bed. Stop working 2 hours before bed. Reduce screen time 1 hour before bed, and hit the snooze button zero times.

Now, here are some things to do to improve sleep:

Remain active and get some exercise during the day. Try not to exercise within 2 hours of going to bed. 

Create a sleep routine. This can include things such as putting on pajamas, washing your face, brushing and flossing your teeth, turning down the bed and lowering the lights. You’re telling your body rest is near. 

Maintain a consistent waking time, especially on weekends.

If you like to nap, only sleep for 20 minutes to 30 minutes and at least 6 hours before bed.

Relax and unwind? If you’re like me, your mind is the busiest when you lay down to sleep. There are techniques that might help quiet your mind, relax and fall asleep. If your to-do list keeps popping up in your head, keep a notepad by your bed to write down those items you don’t want to forget. That way, you can write it down and let it go. Try a visualization technique in which you imagine a chalkboard and erase everything on it.

Meditation is the best medicine when it comes to relaxing your body through controlled breathing. Try the four, seven, eight breathing technique. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. This regulates your breathing, reduces anxiety and helps you fall asleep. Try a meditation app on your phone in which you listen to guided meditation. Yet another technique is to tighten and release each body part starting with your toes and working your way to your head.

Focus on sleep quality. Expecting perfect sleep every night isn’t realistic. Keep a sleep diary to help you evaluate your sleep patterns and what works for your best night of sleep.

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