The importance of catching your zzz’s

As we embark on a new year, many choose a goal to focus on or a new year’s resolution. It might be to lose weight, be more active, eat healthier, but how about getting enough sleep? Did you know that 1 in 3 adults do not get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep daily?  Adequate sleep affects how our body functions and lack of sleep puts our health at risk which can have long-term consequences.

What does sleep affect?

Sleep has an impact on everything! Let’s start with our heart health, as you sleep your blood pressure goes down which is needed for a healthy heart.  If you have poor sleep, your blood pressure stays elevated which can lead to developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and even strokes.  During sleep, your body releases hormones to heal and repair cells all while storing energy needed for when you wake. It also affects how your immune system reacts to viruses or other infections. Other chronic diseases that sleep affects include diabetes and obesity. Lack of sleep can affect how your body reacts to insulin and as a result, can cause glucose to rise.  A balanced diet leads to better sleep and promotes healthy weight. Poor sleep can increase your appetite and lead to unhealthy eating either in food selection or quantity chosen, which can result in gaining weight. Obesity also puts you at risk for sleep apnea as it can affect your breathing as well.  When we have gotten the zzz’s we need each night we wake up refreshed improving our mood and feeling energized throughout the day. This helps with our concentration to make decisions and focus on the task we are trying to complete. It is vital for our physical and mental well-being.

How can I improve my sleep?

First, stick to a sleep schedule! Waking up and going to sleep at the same time daily will help prepare your body for the rest you need. Second, be active each day, but earlier in the day. Avoid exercise a few hours before bedtime, choose a morning workout or a walk at lunchtime. Third, focus on healthy foods and beverages throughout the day, but a few hours before bed cut it off!  Skip alcohol, caffeine, and foods high in sugar as they will not help you get that perfect night’s sleep you are longing for.  Preparing for bed does not only include cutting off your food intake, but the light from TVs, cell phones, and e-readers can prevent you from falling asleep. Use a blue light filter on your smartphone as an alternative. Food, light, and don’t forget temperature! Keeping your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool is one more way to improve your sleep quality. There is no one diet to follow for the perfect night’s sleep, but the Mediterranean Diet which improves heart health, and the DASH diet which reduces blood pressure have been shown to lead to a better night’s sleep.

In the coming year, what can you change to improve your sleep? It’s an important piece of the puzzle to achieving that healthy lifestyle we all hope to achieve as we start every new year.



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Posted: January 3, 2024

Category: Health & Nutrition, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Sleep Health, Sleep Nutrition

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