By Michelle Carbery, Corporate Wellness Specialist, Independent Health

Getting enough sleep is vital to one’s health and well-being. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that U.S. adults receive an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night. However, there’s a lot that can interfere with natural sleep patterns. People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well.

There are many things you can do to ensure you get enough sleep, including lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques and prescription sleep aids that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. The promotion of good sleep habits and regular sleep is known as “sleep hygiene.”

The following is a list of sleep hygiene tips from the National Sleep Foundation that can be used to improve sleep:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning, even on weekends.
  • Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. Naps can boost your brain power, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. Also, keep naps to under an hour.
  • Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is essential to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day.
  • Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music. Try to begin an hour or more before the time you expect to fall asleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music.
  • Remove all electronics from the bedroom, including TVs, computers, tablets and phones.
  • Avoid caffeine, eating large meals, drinking too many fluids, alcohol and nicotine close to bedtime, as they may interfere with sleep.
  • Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy.

The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep. It’s important to practice good sleep hygiene, but if your sleep problems persist or if they interfere with how you feel or function during the day, you should talk to your doctor about other options.

Interested in more wellness articles from Independent Health’s Corporate Wellness Specialists? Here’s one on ways to boost your immune system.