There's a reason you're meant to spend a third of your life in slumber — good health depends on it. Most people need seven or eight hours of sleep each night. During sleep:
Your brain sorts the important elements of the day from the unimportant and stores memories, allowing for more efficient long-term memory recall
Your body regulates hormones such as cortisol (to help manage stress), human growth hormone (to repair muscle tissue), insulin (to regulate blood glucose) and others
Cell turnover rids waste from your cells, leaving the immune system restored
Chronic sleep deprivation impairs attentiveness, coordination and reaction time. It also increases the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression. And sleepiness is an all-too-common cause of accidents and fatalities in the workplace and on highways.
Making sleep a priority takes time and patience, just like any other health behavior change. To get started, identify and confront the challenges that are robbing you of your sleep.
Your daily routine
Drinking caffeine close to bedtime
Avoid caffeine starting 10 hours before bedtime.
Limit the amount you drink (no more than 1 drink a day for women and men older than 65, and up to 2 drinks a day for men age 65 and younger). Stop drinking 3 hours before bedtime.
Eating a late-evening meal
Limit how much you eat in the evening, and avoid eating 3 hours before bedtime.
Late-day napping or exercising
Avoid napping 6 hours before bedtime.
Irregular sleep schedule
Set a regular bedtime and wake time, including on weekends.
Working, reading or watching TV in bed
Keep the place where you sleep focused on sleep — avoid reading, watching TV, eating and working in the bedroom.
Minimize screen time before bedtime. Try room-darkening shades.
Warm room or body temperature
Set the thermostat to a cooler temperature, layer bedding and clothing, and use breathable bedding.
Too much noise
Try earplugs or white noise, such as a fan or sound machine.
Experiment with pillows and bedding to create a comfortable, relaxing experience.
Keep a journal next to your bed to jot down your thoughts or intentionally shift your focus to gratitude.
Worry or anxiety about sleep
If you've been in bed for what feels like it has been about 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.
Practice deep breathing, meditation or prayer.
Limited movement during the day
Take intermittent walks throughout the day, or schedule time for structured exercise.
This week, stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Explore one way to make your sleep space more comfortable and relaxing, whether it's keeping your bedroom cooler or darker or getting a more comfortable pillow.
Identify one overall wellness practice to shift. Perhaps you will set three reminders each day to get up and walk for 10 to 15 minutes. Or you will take 10 minutes at the end of the day to do something relaxing, such as listening to soothing music or taking a warm bath.