3. Choosing to make sleep a priority
Know the risks of sleepiness. Some people view sleep as a waste of time, and that means it's expendable. But skimping on sleep (most of us need between seven and nine hours a night) does a lot more damage than just making you cranky and foggy. A growing body of research shows a link between inadequate sleep and increased risk for a number of health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity. According to the National Sleep Foundation, studies indicate a connection between lack of sleep and low levels of the hormone leptin, which regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates. When leptin is low, the body craves carbs, carbs and more carbs.
What's more, not getting enough z's may also weaken your immune system, putting you at greater risk for colds, flu and infection. And driving while sleep-deprived slows your reaction time and ups your risk of accidents.
Practice good sleep habits. To nab a better night's sleep: Cut back on caffeine within six hours before bed, and if you smoke, quit, since both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can impair your rest. Only get into bed to sleep—not to balance your checkbook, watch television or eat. If you don't start to drift off within about 15 minutes, leave your bed and do something relaxing, such as reading or listening to music (as long as neither is stimulating). Turn all clocks—especially glowing digital ones—away from you; counting down the hours before you need to get up will just add to your anxiety. And if you're stressed about something or worried you'll forget an item on your to-do list, jot down your thoughts in a journal so you don't ruminate on them.