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When we talk about lifestyle habits that promote healthy living, the conversation often involves healthy eating and routine exercise.

While the importance of these two practices is unquestioned, don’t underestimate the power of sleep — it’s as integral to your well-being as your diet and active living.

A good night’s sleep can make the whole world look better. Sleep provides an opportunity for our bodies to repair and rejuvenate. Rest also prepares your mind and body to deal with life’s everyday challenges.

Studies show that adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night and school-age children and adolescents need at least 10 hours. Are you and and your family getting enough sleep? If the answer is no, consider making sleep a priority.

Sleep is sort of the unsung hero of our health. There are so many health benefits that come along with getting a full night’s rest, among them: much-needed rest for our heart and vascular system, sharpened memory, improved moods, improved productivity and enhanced learning.

Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling anxious, depressed and fatigued. It has also been linked to health disorders such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. As you can see, getting good sleep has a big impact on your overall well-being. This is why it’s important to maintain healthy sleep habits.

And it’s not just enough to put in the hours. The quality of our sleep is just important as the amount of sleep we get. Here are a few sleep hygiene practices to help improve your sleep:

During the day

  • Maintain a regular sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at around the same time each day, even on weekends. If your body gets used to going to bed, falling asleep, and waking up at the same time each day, it will be easier to relax into sleep.
  • Nap for no longer than 20 minutes: If you must nap during the day, nap at least four hours before your bedtime.
  • Drink most of your fluids earlier in the day. Not only do you staying hydrated, this helps avoid waking up to go to the bathroom during the night.
  • Exercise regularly but not too close to bedtime. Exercise for 30 to 60 minutes at least three times a week. Be sure to exercise at least four to six hours before bedtime.
  • At bedtime

  • Avoid using your computer or watching TV. It may seem harmless, but nighttime light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep.
  • Create a “sleep chamber.” Make sure your bed, bedding, and nightclothes are comfortable—and your room is quiet and dark.
  • Skip bedtime snacks. If you have are still hungry after dinner, try to have only a light snack one to two hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
  • Plan relaxing evenings. Try to avoid stress before bedtime. Read a book, listen to music or enjoy a warm bath.
  • When to get help

    Almost everyone has trouble sleeping sometimes. If you have tried the recommendations above for three to four weeks but are still having a hard time sleeping, think about making an appointment to see a doctor.

    Herbal remedies

    Herbal medicines and supplements, such as melatonin and valerian, are sold over the counter.

    At this time, not enough is known about whether these medicines are safe or actually work for treating insomnia. Talk to your doctor about taking melatonin, valerian or any other herbal medicine.

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