Guess what: What is likely one of your favorite all-time activities comes with some pretty amazing benefits. It takes little to no effort, you can do it from the convenience of your own home (and often do), AND you don’t even have to get out of bed. In fact, you should get into bed.

Yep, I’m talking about sleeping! We joke about choosing our beds over our social lives and about going to sleep before 9 p.m., but the reality is that sleep is incredibly important and it should be prioritized. Plus, if we get enough of it, we’re rewarded with some pretty awesome benefits.

Reap the Benefits of Proper Sleep Hygiene

“Getting a proper night of sleep is essential to our health,” explains Bill Fish, Certified Sleep Science Coach and Co-Founder of Tuck. “In fact, sleep is now known as the third pillar of wellness along with exercise and nutrition.” So, what exactly does a proper night of sleep entail? Well, it depends on the person. Teens (aged 14-17) should aim for 8-10 hours of sleep a night, young adults (aged 18-25) and middle-aged adults (26-64) should shoot for 7-9 hours, and older adults (65+ years) at least 7-8 hours.

I fall into the young adults group, and you better believe I get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. My older brother always laughs at me for going to bed on the early side, but it’s all in good fun. He knows just how important it is that I—and everyone else for that matter—get a good night’s rest. “As a society, we are finally coming to the realization that someone who gets a full night of sleep shouldn’t be perceived as lazy, but on the contrary, they are recharging their body and mind for the day ahead,” says Fish. In addition to recharging for the coming day, Fish says that getting an adequate amount of sleep can help to…

  • Keep your weight in check. “When your body is sleeping, it’s more apt to burn fat. When awake and tired, it is more apt to burn muscle,” Fish explains.
  • Maximize exercise performance. It’s also vital that your body rests after a good workout, according to Fish. In your sleep, your body “is building back the muscle that was broken down during a workout. The recovery is just as important as the exertion,” he explains.
  • Ensure safety behind the wheel. Have you ever driven sleepy? Considering 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep, you probably have. “Drowsy driving not only puts you at risk, but others on the road,” says Fish. “Nearly 20% of auto accidents take place because of a drowsy driver. Simply put, a full night of sleep saves lives.”
  • Promote mental wellness. And finally, getting a good night’s rest helps to cultivate mental wellness. “Being sleep deprived doesn’t give your brain the necessary time to reset for the next day. This causes not only moodiness, but making sound decisions difficult,” Fish explains. Furthermore, poor sleep habits can lead to negative thinking, irritability, and even mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

Get a Good Night’s Rest: 6 Tips

Now that you understand just how important sleep is, how exactly can you incorporate it into your self-care routine and ensure you get a good night’s rest? The answer to this can vary slightly from person to person, but the following tips will get you on the right track:

1) Stick to a schedule.

First and foremost, you should create and stick to a sleep schedule, so that your body learns when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. This is called regulating your body’s clock, and it’ll help you fall as well as stay asleep at night!

2) Unwind before bedtime.

It also helps to unwind before bedtime, to give your body a little heads up that it’s about time to go to sleep. A relaxing routine might include reading a book, taking a bubble bath, or journaling. Whatever you do, try your best to avoid bright lights, as they can keep you awake and even cause stress or anxiety at bedtime.

3) Exercise regularly.

Exercising daily can help you fall and stay asleep at night too. If you aren’t big into running or going to the gym, don’t worry—even light exercise like a simple walk around the block or crunch session can get the job done. Remember: any exercise is better than no exercise!

4) Create a relaxing atmosphere.

Is your bedroom fit for sleeping? When you climb into your bed and under the covers, is your mind relaxed? If the answer is no, it’s time to make some changes. Adjust your environment so that you’re in a relaxing space. This might mean getting a new mattress or pillow, adjusting the temperature, eliminating agitating noises, and so on.

5) Avoid caffeine and heavy foods.

You should also avoid caffeine and heavy foods right before bed. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and can prevent your body from relaxing at night. Similarly, eating late at night (especially those heavy snacks) can also negatively affect sleep quality. So, as a general rule of thumb, don’t consume caffeine or heavy foods close to your bedtime.

6) Ease your mind.

And finally, get yourself into the right headspace. Unwinding before bedtime will help you do so, but you might also need to manually stop that racing mind. Tell your mind, “No, not right now. Right now, it’s time to sleep!” Meditating also helps me, and so does counting sheep (or any other animal/object), believe it or not.