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Hello Idaho: Benefits of getting good sleep

Getting good, quality sleep is not always easy, but it’s one of the most important things we can do for our health.

BOISE, Idaho — Getting good, quality sleep is not always easy, but it’s one of the most important things we can do for our health.

Angie Radford, a licensed clinical social worker with Optum Idaho, said that going without sleep is not just frustrating, but can lead to serious health complications as well

“Getting the right amount of sleep can really help improve memory, mood, and lower stress," Radford said. "But the opposite of that – if you’re getting ongoing poor sleep – that can actually raise your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even gaining weight.”

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One of the ways people can help improve their sleeping is by keeping a regular sleep schedule - going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, Radford said.

Limiting caffeine, particularly later in the day, and cutting out smoking is also helpful, she said.

"Avoiding alcohol before bed is important. Small amounts of alcohol may be helpful in falling asleep, but it actually interferes with staying asleep," Radford added. "Getting regular exercise is not only beneficial for our health, but can help with improving sleep quality. You want to avoid naps, especially late in the day. If you really feel like you need a nap, early afternoon is better, and sleep no more than 20 minutes."

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Limiting distractions is also key, she said. Many people who bring their cell phones to their bedside end up lying awake and scrolling rather than drifting off, resulting in falling asleep far later than they had planned.

"Research shows that having your smartphone, laptop or devices in your bedroom can lead to going to sleep later, sleeping less amount of times, or waking up in the middle of the night," she said. "There are some things to consider, which I can tell you I very much enforce for my children and have time doing so for myself: Stop using all screens one hour before bedtime. You want to fall asleep without listening to music, TV, or playing on some sort of device."

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Using a real alarm clock instead of a phone alarm can make that easier, Radford said, along with charging phones and laptops outside of the bedroom at night. 

Sometimes, difficulty sleeping has more complicated causes that require help from a medical professional. If these tips are not working, Radford suggests speaking to your doctor about getting treatment. 

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