Most people are familiar with the ways in which a healthy diet and active lifestyle can impact their physical well-being, but proper sleep doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

Starting from a young age, we’ve all stayed up to watch just one more episode, pulled all-nighters to work or study, or even stayed out late just because we can.

Improving sleep duration and quality is essential to adapt to the demands of life. Losing sleep from things like time changes, travel and general stress is all too common, so it’s important to know how to bounce back quickly and get good rest. Keep reading to receive the inside scoop of the importance of sleep and factors that can improve it.

But First, Why Sleep Matters

Sleep is essential to nearly every one of the body’s processes and plays a critical role in keeping us mentally and physically well. Still wondering why we should make sleep such a priority?

Sleep is important because it:

  • Benefits brain function, including cognition, concentration, productivity and performance
  • Can play a role in maintaining or losing weight, as well as maximizing fitness performance
  • Supports healthy immune function
  • Influences the ability to regulate emotions

1.  Eat Well to Sleep Well

Did you know that what and when you eat can affect your sleep? It’s best to avoid heavy meals right before bedtime, as well as caffeine, alcohol and acidic, spicy, sugary or high-fat foods.

Of course, everyone is different, but consuming these types of drinks or meals late in the evening can leave most tossing and turning as their digestive system works to process everything.

Instead, try the following to make the most of your nightly snooze:

  • Eat your heaviest meal at lunch
  • Stick to a balanced, nutrient-dense diet
  • Kids should limit sugar intake
  • Adults should cap caffeine and alcohol consumption in the afternoon and evening, swapping them for a calming cup of herbal tea

2.  Exercise for Better Sleep

A lack of exercise can also contribute to a problematic cycle of sleeplessness. Little to no movement can increase stress, which can keep you up at night. In turn, that inability to sleep makes it difficult to be active due to increased daytime fatigue. From there, the cycle continues.

Because there are so many benefits associated with exercise, try to move your body daily. When it comes to getting better rest, simple, moderate-intensity exercises like walking and yoga will do the trick. Kids should definitely enjoy daily playtime, and long walks as a family are just one of the ways you can reap the benefits of movement together.

3.  Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Curious what sleep hygiene is? It means creating an environment and adhering to routines that promote the most consistent, restful slumber. Sleep hygiene matters for everyone across the board, but kids and young adults stand to benefit the most, as it sets them up for success throughout life.

  • Set a schedule:  Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, as this creates a rhythm of efficient sleep
  • Wind down before bed:  Allow yourself and your kids 30 minutes to an hour to take part in activities that create a state of calm before bedtime (e.g., meditating, journaling, reading, listening to soothing music, etc.)
  • Maintain your sleep space:  Cool, dark, quiet environments that are free of electronic distractions are best for rest. Go ahead and silence cell phones and turn off the TV.
  • Avoid daytime naps: If unavoidable, keep napping to short bursts of 30 minutes or less so as not to interfere with sleep at night

4.   Create a Routine that Works for the Whole Family

Creating a sleep routine for you and your family can bring about a healthy sense of order. It creates a dynamic where “sleep time” is shared throughout the household, thus likely making it easier for everyone to fall asleep. It will also keep you and your family’s already-chaotic schedules more organized. Make sure to practice a new sleep routine until it’s habitual.

For example, let’s say a family is preparing to return from vacation, consequently dealing with jet lag and returning to work and school. They should begin establishing a sleep routine that will work for their incoming schedules while using the tips above to readjust quickly.

A good sleep schedule is a powerful tool for success, so use the advice in this article for the sake of you and your family’s health and prosperity.