Sleep, a Lifestyle Factor as Important as Diet and Exercise

Posted by Joi Gleason, RD, LDN, CHWC on Dec 29, 2017 2:28:00 PM

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In a 2008 survey by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), the average American reported sleeping an average of six hours and forty minutes on most days.  This is about two hours less than the average reported fifty years ago and about an hour less than what is currently recommended.  Why is this a concern?  Too little sleep or poor quality sleep is a risk factor for being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Sleep, slumber, snooze, siesta, forty winks—no matter what you call it, it’s a major component of health and wellness.  Are you getting enough sleep?

Researchers have found that sleep deprivation leads to increased hunger levels due to an imbalance in the hormones that control your appetite, leptin and ghrelin.  It is thought that the increase in ghrelin that follows a night of too little sleep leads to a craving for high-calorie foods. In a study comparing sleep deprived participants with participants getting seven or more hours of sleep, the sleep deprived consumed an additional 386 calories per day.  This type of situation is a recipe for weight gain.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and most physicians recommend eight hours of sleep daily.  There are a number of benefits including improved mood and functionality, improved memory and better metabolism.


Here are ten tips for establishing a healthy sleep habit.

  1. Create and stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time to help regulate your internal clock.
  2. Establish and practice a night time routine that welcomes rest and sleep. Wind down with a warm bath, comfortable clothes, or a good book.
  3. Curb screen time (television, computer, cell phone) and bright lights a couple hours before going to bed. Bright lights interfere with sleep.  Place your phone in do not disturb mode.
  4. Don’t go to bed with a list of things to do on your mind. Take pen to paper and write down the things you want to accomplish the next day or week rather than thinking about these things as you turn in for the night.
  5. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, smoking and heavy meals late in the evening because these can interfere with sleep.
  6. Curb beverages a couple hours before bed to ensure you will not need to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
  7. Make your room supportive of a good night’s sleep. Keep the room cool and free of light and noise.  Room darkening shades are helpful and ear plugs work wonders if you are easily kept awake by noise.
  8. Daily exercise whether it’s simply a walk or whether it’s something more intense is very helpful in promoting sleep.
  9. A comfortable mattress, pillows and bedding is also very supportive of sleep.
  10. In a few hours before bedtime, avoid activities that are stressful to you or that cause anxiety. Quieting your thoughts is a good habit to establish before going to sleep.

In good health,



Topics: Health and Wellness