By Katie Rosenbrock
Although our individual sleep needs vary, the National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get around 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night. Research hasn't proven an exact number for the amount of sleep required by people across varying age groups, but most experts agree that for adults 18 and older this 7-9 hour range makes for a good rule of thumb.
According to the NSF some of the best benefits of establishing healthy sleep habits include improved moods, optimal athletic performance, the ability to maintain a healthy weight, and an increased attention span.
"Doctors are now saying that sleep is as important to your health as the food you eat and the exercise you do,” says Chris Freytag, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the American Council on Exercise and a personal trainer and weight management coach. "Lack of sleep can result in weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, depression, premature aging, and impaired thinking."
Unfortunately, sleep is an important factor that many people with health and fitness goals commonly neglect. If you've ever hit a plateau while trying to lose weight or improve your fitness and struggled to figure out what might be hindering your goals, it could be because you were missing out on an adequate amount of sleep.
“When you get enough sleep, you give your body time to repair and rejuvenate. Rest is your re-charger,” says Freytag. "Athletes in particular need adequate sleep to gain a competitive advantage. Sleep is critical for performance, speed, accuracy and reaction times."
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And for those with weight loss goals, in addition to low energy levels and a decrease in motivation to exercise, poor sleep habits can also negatively affect your appetite by causing an increase in the hormones that stimulate hunger.
"If you've ever had a sleepless night and the next day you were ravaged by hunger all day, your body has experienced the negative impact of a lack of sleep on your hormones," says Freytag. "When you don't get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. Your ghrelin levels rise and your appetite is stimulated so you want more food."
Aside from the simple fact that sometimes if feels like there just aren't enough hours in the day to
watch an entire season of Breaking Bad finish your entire to-do list, maybe you find you're missing out on catching your Z’s simply because you have trouble falling asleep.
Whatever the reason, if you have trouble hitting the hay at a decent hour most nights, there are several things you can do to start getting a better night’s sleep on a regular basis. Among other tips, the NSF recommends exercising regularly, establishing a consistent sleep and wake schedule, and creating a calm and relaxed sleep environment. Plus, our experts -- Freytag, Alcibiades Rodriguez, M.D, and Rebecca Q. Scott, PhD -- offer the following 13 tips for creating healthy habits that will lead to quality sleep every night of the week.
"Consider your sleep a third component next to exercise and clean eating for an overall healthy you,” says Freytag.
"Too much alcohol will affect sleep," says Scott. Freytag adds: "Ever notice when you have a cocktail or two that you keep waking up during the night? It's not a coincidence. Many people with insomnia use a glass of wine to try and induce sleep, but studies indicate that alcohol consumed within an hour of bedtime appears to disrupt the second half of sleep -- you will wake up and have a more difficult time getting back to sleep. Alcohol's impact on your sleep is thought to get worse if you regularly have a drink before going to bed. If you want quality sleep, skip the adult beverages."
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