The many benefits of catching some Z's

Jake Hughes
August 08, 2018 - 3:39 pm

(Image Courtesy of Dreamstime)

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How are you feeling today? Good? Good! Not so good? Well, did you get a good night's sleep last night?

The health benefits of getting proper sleep are many and widely known. Beyond curing simple exhaustion, a solid eight hours of sleep can help with weight loss, boost the immune system, "de-frag" the brain, and even ease depression.

According to a study recently released by health.mil, the official website of the Military Health System, sleep isn't just essential for your health. Lack of sleep can be the symptom of serious problems. A chronic lack of sleep and a concussion often share symptoms, like irritability, headaches, anxiety, and inability to focus. In fact, service members who are victims of TBI are first treated for sleep issues to rule out what is sleep-related and what is an injury.

“For instance, something like short-term memory is very impacted by sleep loss,” said Dr. Janna Mantua principal investigator studying sleep at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. “Ruling out sleep disorders that might be undetected is really critical.”

Getting restful sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health, and it often takes preparation during the day. Improve your sleep regimen with these healthy sleep tips.

1. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every day, and get up at the same time, regardless of how much sleep you get.

2. Do NOT exercise close to bedtime.

3. Avoid naps.

4. Avoid caffeine-containing foods or drinks — such as chocolate, energy drinks and soda — at least 6 hours before bedtime.

5. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, heavy meals and drinking a lot of liquids close to bedtime.

6. Promote a sleep-friendly environment — minimize noise and light, and keep a cool but comfortable temperature.

7. Relax before bedtime — have a warm shower or soak in the tub, meditate, do yoga stretches or try progressive muscle relaxation. Do NOT work on the computer, read, play video games or watch TV in bed.

8. Go to bed only when you are sleepy. If you can’t fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, go to another room. Keep the lights dim and do something relaxing, but avoid using the TV, computer or phone.

9. Use the bed for sleep and intimacy only. Remove your TV, radio, smartphone, tablets, computers and other electronic devices from the bedroom.

10. Schedule 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

11. Get exposure to natural light as much as possible. For example, spend some time outside or close to a window.

12. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medications or supplements. If you have been prescribed sleep medications, take them as instructed.

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