For many Americans, consistently getting a good night’s sleep is, unfortunately, a tough feat. And while getting plenty of ZZZs is generally understood to be important for overall health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that more than one-third of U.S. adults aren’t getting enough rest.
Why Do You Need It?
If you want to look and feel your best, adequate rest is crucial. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion says rest keeps you mentally alert, helps fight off infections and lowers your risk of developing chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
How Much Is Enough?
The amount of rest you need varies by age and activity level, but the CDC provides general guidelines on how much sleep is enough. According to them, an adult should get at least seven hours.
How to Catch More ZZZs
- Exercise Regularly
Exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle, so it may come as no surprise that regular exercise improves rest quality. A 2015 review of 66 studies in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine concluded that regular exercise equals better sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise per week improves rest quality by 65 percent.
- Keep Naps Short
Naps are sometimes beneficial or necessary, especially for young children or when you’re sick. To boost rest quality at night, however, avoid napping after 4:00 p.m. Also, keep daytime snoozes short (the NSF suggests 20 to 30 minutes).
- Choose Foods Carefully
If you’re uncomfortably full or hungry right before bed, your rest quality can plummet, says Mayo Clinic. If you’re feeling the urge to nosh before bedtime, choose a light and healthy snack — like fruit, vegetables with hummus, plain Greek yogurt or oatmeal — and do so about 45 minutes before you tuck yourself in, as the NSF
- Limit Screen Time
Bright lights promote wakefulness, which can lead to tossing and turning at night. Try shutting off bright lights and LCD screens (televisions, computers and video games) at least one hour before bed, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
- Consider L-Theanine
The amino acid L-theanine, found in tea leaves, is a natural rest aid. A 2015 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that taking 200 milligrams of L-theanine before bed may boost rest quality without daytime drowsiness or risk of addiction. A cup of black tea typically contains between 25 to 60 milligrams of L-Theanine.
- Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine
Mayo Clinic says the stimulating effects of caffeine and nicotine can take hours to wear off — and while alcohol may make you fall asleep faster, it can rob of you of crucial REM sleep throughout the night. So avoid all three several hours before bedtime.
Getting plenty of high-quality ZZZs isn’t always as easy as it seems, but following a few of these simple tips can help you snooze soundly and wake up refreshed. If you find you’re still having problems, talk to your primary care physician.