Take time for yourself and find ways to relieve stress.
Key Recommendation: Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night and learn ways to cope with stress.
Basics About Sleep
Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few of us actually make those eight or so hours between the sheets a priority. For many of us with sleep debt, we’ve forgotten what “being really, truly rested” feels like.
To further complicate matters, stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from electronic devices—interferes with our "circadian rhythm" or natural sleep/wake cycle.
Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. To determine how much sleep you need, it's important to assess not only where you fall on the "sleep needs spectrum," but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress.
To get the sleep you need, you must look at the big picture.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Though research cannot pinpoint an exact amount of sleep need by people at different ages, our new chart, which features minimum and maximum ranges for health as well as “recommended” windows, identifies the "rule-of-thumb" amounts experts agree upon.
Nevertheless, it's important to pay attention to your own individual needs by assessing how you feel on different amounts of sleep.
Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
Are you experiencing sleep problems?
Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
Do you feel sleepy when driving?
These are questions that must be asked before you can find the number that works for you.
Improve Your Sleep Today: Make Sleep a Priority
To begin a new path towards healthier sleep and a healthier lifestyle, begin by assessing your own individual needs and habits. See how you respond to different amounts of sleep.
Pay careful attention to your mood, energy and health after a poor night's sleep versus a good one. Ask yourself, "How often do I get a good night's sleep?" Like good diet and exercise, sleep is a critical component to overall health.
To pave the way for better sleep, follow these simple yet effective healthy sleep tips, including:
Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
Turn off electronics before bed.
Most importantly, make sleep a priority. You must schedule sleep like any other daily activity, so put it on your "to-do list" and cross it off every night. But don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done – stop doing other things so you get the sleep you need.
If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms such as sleepiness during the day or when you expect to be awake and alert, snoring, leg cramps or tingling, gasping or difficulty breathing during sleep, prolonged insomnia or another symptom that is preventing you from sleeping well, you should consult your primary care physician or find a sleep professional to determine the underlying cause.
Coping With Stress
Everyone—adults, teens, and even children—experiences stress at times.
Stress is a reaction to a situation where a person feels threatened or anxious. Stress can be positive (e.g., preparing for a wedding) or negative (e.g., dealing with a natural disaster). The symptoms may be physical or emotional.
Stress can be beneficial. It can help people develop the skills they need to deal with possible threatening situations throughout life. Stress is not helpful when it prevents a person from taking care of themselves or their family.
Common reactions to a stressful event can include:
Disbelief, shock, and numbness
Feeling sad, frustrated, and helpless
Fear and anxiety about the future
Anger, tension, and irritability
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Reduced interest in usual activities
Wanting to be alone
Loss of appetite
Sleeping too much or too little
Nightmares or bad memories
Reoccurring thoughts of the event
Headaches, back pains, and stomach problems
Increased heart rate, difficulty breathing
Smoking or use of alcohol or drugs
You can put problems into perspective by finding healthy ways to cope. Getting the right care and support can help reduce stressful feelings and symptoms.
Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress
Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and eating can all be normal reactions to stress. Here are some healthy ways you can deal with stress:
Take care of yourself.
Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
Exercise on a regular basis
Get plenty of sleep
Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out
Talk to others. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor.
Avoid drugs and alcohol. These may seem to help with the stress. But in the long run, they create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
Take a break. If news events are causing your stress, take a break from listening or watching the news.
Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor.
This post is part of Healthy At Any Size, a 5-part campaign featuring realistic, doable advice for eating better, moving more, and making your health a priority! Download your guide TODAY!