Can’t get a good night’s sleep? Randomly wake up throughout the night? Feel exhausted throughout the day? In this blog we will be sharing with you a few side effects that are related to poor sleeping habits, but most importantly we will share seven proven tips on how to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Sleep plays an important role in good health and well-being throughout our lives. Getting adequate sleep can help protect our mental and physical health, as well as our quality of life. When we sleep, our bodies are working to support healthy brain function and maintain our physical health.

Here are just a few of the side effects of sleep deficiency that go way beyond dark circles under our eyes:

  1. Poor health. Studies have found a link between insufficient sleep and serious health problems, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases.
  1. Chronic pain. While being in pain can make it difficult to sleep, it should be noted that many studies have shown a link between sleep loss and lower pain threshold.
  1. Overall bad mood. Not getting enough sleep can affect our emotional regulation, causing us to be a bit crankier than our well-rested co-workers. Sleep deprivation can lead to an array of emotions from irritability to uncontrollable laughter.
  1. Weight gain. Sleep loss can increase our risk of weight gain, while getting enough sleep can help maintain weight. One reason for this is when we’re tired, we’re more likely to make excuses to skip the gym or avoid that evening walk. Secondly, when sleep deprived, our leptin levels drop. The hormone leptin plays a key role in making us feel full; therefore, when we’re tired, we’re hungry.
  1. Feeling confused and forgetful. When we’re sleep deprived, we may wake up feeling like our brain is foggy. Studies have shown that people who do not get adequate sleep are worse at solving logic or math problems than well rested folks. Maybe you blame it on forgetting how to do math? Well, studies also show that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate our memories from the day. If we don’t get enough sleep, those memories aren’t stored correctly and can be lost.
  1. Poor sex life. Yup, we said it. According to a recent poll, 26% of people say their sex lives suffer because they are too tired. There is also evidence that impaired sleep in men can be associated with lower testosterone levels.

So what can you do? If you’re getting less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, here are seven ways to help you get the rest your body needs:

  1. Exercise. Being active during the day can help promote a good night’s sleep. People who exercise report a better quality of sleep than those who remain sedentary throughout the day.
  1. Keep it cool and dark. Leaving the lights on, or even exposing your eyes to the light from a television or monitor, can be deceitful to your brain, causing it to register the lights as daylight.  If lights are a must, use dim lighting. A cool body sleeps better. A recent study suggests that maintaining a room temperature between 60 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit promotes the best quality of sleep.
  1. Write it down. If something is bothering you at the end of your day, journal about it. Writing things down on paper will help put your mind at ease and keep you from stressing about it while you sleep,and prevent you from waking up throughout the night.
  1. Unplug. We can’t stress the importance of this enough. Put down your phone, turn off the television, close your laptop, and sleep!  Try to avoid the use of electronics an hour before bedtime to help you unwind.
  1. Avoid alcohol. While having a drink or two before bed may speed up the onset of sleep, about half way through the night it will take its toll. As the body breaks down the liquid, the alcohol in the bloodstream leads to an increase in the number of times you briefly wake up throughout the night.
  1. Smile. Thinking positive thoughts before you go to bed can help your sleep quality and will promote good dreams.
  1. Set an alarm.  If you find yourself always thinking of something else to do before bedtime, set an alarm to remind yourself to go to bed. When you go to bed early, getting up earlier will be easier. Maintaining a sleep schedule may help you ditch the dreaded morning alarm.

Though some may think they can function on as little as four hours of sleep, research and science have settled this debate and agree that seven to eight hours of sleep is what we need to aim for on a nightly basis. Happy sleeping!

Related: Improve Your Sleep Quality, Improve Your LifestyleOne Simple Thing You Can Do to Potentially Prevent Cognitive Disease; and Mastering Your Sleep: 5 Tips to Increase Your Sleep Quality