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We’ve all experienced it. The brain fog, grogginess, short fuse, and tiredness that comes from a bad night’s sleep. It’s difficult to productively get through your daily responsibilities when you haven’t had adequate sleep.

While many of us know that sleep is essential to our overall health, it may be less known that sleep is just as important, if not more important, to our overall health than exercise or a healthy diet. While the occasional night of poor sleep isn’t anything to be too concerned about, a regular occurrence of restless nights can quickly become a real problem.

How Poor Sleep Affects Your Health

Countless studies have found that poor sleep has immediate effects on your total health. There really isn’t any area of your body that poor sleep doesn’t negatively impact.

A lack of quality sleep can cause:

  • Hormonal Imbalances
  • Weight Gain
  • Decrease in Brain Function
  • Increased Risk of Disease

While it’s impossible to control every factor contributing to a poor night’s sleep, there are habits you can adopt that encourage better sleep.

1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule

We know, we know, sticking to a sleep schedule can be TOUGH. But, the benefits of doing this far outweigh the slight inconvenience it may cause. Review your typical daily routine and measure out the opportune time frame to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Then, stick to that schedule. By going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, you will reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle and make it easier to fall — and stay — asleep.

2. Reduce Light Exposure Before Bed

Most of us end our days by staring at screens. Binging your favorite show on tv, mindlessly scrolling through social media, reading on your kindle… these have all become our nightly routines. Exposure to light at nighttime affects your circadian rhythm and tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, causing it to lessen its production of sleep hormones such as melatonin. Try turning off your devices at least 1 hour before heading to bed to help your brain begin it’s sleepytime routine.

3. Skip the Alcohol

“But alcohol makes me feel sleepy and relaxed!”

While having a glass of wine can make your body feel relaxed, drinking alcohol before bed has a negative effect on your sleep. Alcohol has been shown to increase symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring, and can cause disruptive sleep patterns. It also slows down your brain’s ability to produce melatonin and messes with your circadian rhythm, both of which are vital to getting a full night’s sleep.

4. Skip the Late Night Snacking

The main goal for setting yourself up for a good night’s rest is helping your body slow its usual rhythm and get into a better state of relaxation. When you eat a late-night meal or snack, you’re kicking your digestive system into high gear to digest the food you ate. This is the opposite of what needs to happen before bed. If you are really hungry before bed, try munching on something light and small — like apple slices or crackers — to satisfy your hunger while not putting a huge load on your digestive system.

5. Find Time to Move

Daily exercise has health benefits across-the-board for your overall health and is one of the most science-backed methods for improving your health. It initiates changes in your body’s energy use and temperature, promoting a good night’s sleep. When you use up your daily store of energy, your body and brain feel less alert and awake the later it gets into the day. This natural rhythm of energy usage helps prepare your body to sleep at night. However, it’s important to note that most experts do not recommend intense exercise close to bedtime because it can hinder your body’s ability to calm down in preparation for sleep.

If you’ve tried every recommendation in the book to improve your sleep, but still struggle with sleep issues, it may be time to visit Loudoun Smile Center. Our team is trained to recognize sleep issues and will be able to offer a variety of methods to help improve your sleep! Ask us at your next appointment how you can improve your sleeping habits.