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Family and Consumer Sciences Education: How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

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   Are you getting enough sleep?

   Everybody sleeps, but not everyone gets enough of it. A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 40% of Americans are getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night. In order to protect your mental health, physical health, and overall quality of life, you should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Children need a little bit more, with the recommendation being 9-11 hours. While you are sleeping, your brain works hard to prepare for the next day, your heart and blood vessels perform self-repairs, your hormones return to a balanced state, and your immune system is given time and energy to fight off illnesses. All of these processes are not possible if your body isn’t getting the adequate rest that it needs.

   Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and abnormal sleep disorders, make falling and staying asleep very hard. Sleep apnea, which makes breathing difficult in the night, puts individuals at 2-4 times the risk of heart attack and stroke. Obesity is a major risk factor for sleep apnea. Sleep disorders cause stress on both mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep, whether or not it is due to a sleep disorder, can lead to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, or even death overtime if the lack of sleep is not treated. A doctor should treat these conditions early on, so that the health implications of them can be controlled.

   What can you do to get a better night’s sleep?

•Choose Healthy Foods. There are parts of certain foods that make falling asleep easier. Foods like dairy, poultry, nuts, fruits, and vegetables provide the body with proteins and hormones that promote sleep at night. In general, following the Dietary Guidelines will help you to be physically and mentally healthy, day and night. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend a diet that is limited in sugar, saturated fat, and salt, and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Examples of foods that aid in sleep are: kiwis, cherries, bananas, turkey, skim milk, and tofu. Not only do these foods aid in sleep, but they are also nutritious and can help with weight loss and fighting off different diseases. There are other foods, however, that make falling asleep hard. Caffeine and sugar in coffee, soda, chocolate, and high sugar cereals can keep you up at night. If you can, avoid these foods and try to snack on foods that the Dietary Guidelines recommends instead.

•Be Physically Active. It is recommended that you get 2.5 hours of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. This means that about 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week will benefit the health of most people. Some of the benefits of this amount of exercise include: weight control, reduced risk of diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, increased bone and muscle strength, and improved mental health. Getting enough exercise makes falling asleep at night easier. Evidence shows that physical activity does wonders for mental health. By decreasing arousal, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, exercise can clear the mind and make relaxing into a sound sleep happen faster. It has been shown that exercising in the morning or afternoon benefits sleep more than exercising at night. When you work out in the morning or afternoon, you experience deeper sleep cycles and are able to fall asleep faster at night. The effects of exercise at night can interfere with falling asleep.

•Create a Restful Sleep Environment. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool at night. Try to stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake time, even on the weekend. If you can, avoid watching TV or reading from a screen within one hour of going to bed. Try making your bedroom an electronic-free zone.

Source: Penn State

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