Sleep is essential, here’s how to improve it

Discover the benefits of sleep, how much you need and the risks of not making it a priority. 

Daylight Saving Time begins in Minnesota on March 10 this year. For some, the “spring forward” is a welcome change to more daylight later in the evening. Some people find it a tough adjustment to get back into a routine for sleep after adjusting the clock. No matter how you feel about the time change, this event serves as a good reminder that sleep is an important component in your overall wellbeing.

How sleep helps you

Sleeping does wonders for your body and overall wellbeing. Sleep helps you to:

  • Digest food optimally and metabolize sugar
  • Maintain cardiovascular health
  • Fight off infection
  • Improve physical performance and mental health
  • Be more productive and less susceptible to injury

The right amount of sleep

The Centers for Disease (CDC) control provides a recommended range of hours—and it changes as you age. Adults should strive for at least seven hours of sleep every 24 hours, yet a third of Minnesota adults fall short.

Tim Klein, director of health and wellbeing coaching with the YMCA says a common misconception that he hears is, “I really don’t need that much sleep.” Typically, some exploration reveals that these same individuals might be experiencing the effects of a lack of sleep. Tim says only a very small minority of adults truly can get by on less than six hours of sleep and still feel fully rested and alert.

Why you shouldn’t skimp on sleep

When life gets busy, sleep is commonly one of the places people look to borrow extra time. However, this can be a risky choice. Like everyone, you’ve experienced the effects of insufficient sleep here and there. You might experience fatigue, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness and moodiness. Yet there can be longer-term consequences, too. 

Tim notes that ongoing issues with sleep are increasingly tied to chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and depression. “When we routinely lack restful sleep and fall into ‘sleep debt,’ our body’s systems become increasingly compromised,” he says.

Making sustainable changes to support better sleep

Knowing that sleep is important and getting more restful sleep are two different things. If you’ve considered any of the following—you’re not alone:

  • How—given work, family and other commitments—do I make sleep a realistic priority?
  • How do I wind down and quiet my mind at night before dozing off?
  • How do I keep from waking up so frequently at night, or too early in the morning?

In addition to some tips for better sleep, Tim suggests the “3-2-1” method to help you work toward longer, higher-quality sleep. Try planning for:

  • Three hours between your last big meal and going to bed
  • Two hours before bed that are free of work or highly demanding mental processing
  • One hour before bed to be absent of screens or blue light

“Many individuals find partnering with a health and wellbeing coach helpful for exploring and then navigating a process for sustainable behavior change, including improved sleep. A key role of a coach is to help you fully explore and discover the life factors that support or challenge better sleep,” says Tim.

Collaborating with a coach can help you to create an empowering and motivating wellbeing vision that encompasses your desired shifts in sleep-related behavior. Together, you will brainstorm goals and related actions to support the desired changes. And throughout the process, you’ll have encouragement and support to keep you going. Contact George Wellbeing to get started with coaching.