Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Of all the components of good health, there’s one that’s as essential as eating, breathing and physical activity. According to Lisa Bellafato, a health education manager at Passport Health Plan, a good night’s sleep can have a positive effect on everything from your energy level to your ability to lose weight.
“Sleep is a restorative time for the body,” said Bellafato, who holds a Master’s degree in Education, Health and Leisure Education from Boston University. “Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep. Some can get less, some need more. Teens need more, but for some it’s almost impossible to get the recommended hours.”
Bellafato spends time talking to teens about health issues, and notes that technology is a big factor in depriving young people of sleep. Phones, and the need to be constantly connected, is a huge factor. She recommends a family charging station, and said parents should insist on every family member placing phones at a central location at bedtime.
“Phones keep us from getting enough sleep. Kids are sleep-deprived because they’re on their phones,” she said. “When it beeps at 2 a.m., they want to be ready to respond to that.”
The benefits of a good night’s sleep are plentiful. Bellafato said it’s a time for the brain to restore and rejuvenate, and helps us be more productive and alert the next day. It impacts mood and decision-making abilities, and may cause sleep-deprived individuals to take unnecessary risks.
However, it’s a fact that in an activity-packed life, people who run out of time borrow from sleep time to get caught up. The idea that you can catch up with naps, or by sleeping extra on the weekend, does not work.
“Sleep is one of the greatest tools we have for overall medicine,” Bellafato said. “We need sleep and it’s vital for us. We can’t think of it as optional.”
For those who have trouble getting to sleep, Bellafato recommends setting a routine that includes a dark, cool environment for sleeping. Don’t bring screens (TV, phones, computers) to bed, and definitely don’t eat there.
“Use your bed for sleeping and that’s it,” she said. “The brain should associate your bed with sleeping, no eating, no reading. It’s quiet time to be unplugged.”
Other paths to good sleep include eating a healthy diet and remaining active through the day. Avoid caffeine at night and late-night meals. She said the secret to good health and longevity is to “eat better, move more and stop smoking.”
Of course, there are those who suffer from extended insomnia or sleep apnea (a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts). Some need sleeping pills to get to sleep. Bellafato said it’s wise to see a doctor if this is an ongoing problem.
“If you think ‘I’m just not a good sleeper,’ there are options that make an impact,” she said. “Try setting up a sleep routine. Change your environment. Get technology out of the room. If you’re trying to make a simple change, reach out to your doctor. Try some of the basics around eating, exercise and make sleep a priority. Consider it something you need to invest in yourself.”