Sleep: Everybody knows we need it, but few rarely get the necessary amount of quality sleep necessary on a regular basis.

The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep every night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, two-thirds of Americans say that their sleep needs are not being met during the week. Both Illinois State University employees and students rate sleep as one of their top health issues.

There are a lot of things that can get in the way of making sleep a priority, and getting rest often falls at the bottom of people’s to-do lists. But the reality is that without sleep every aspect of your life can suffer. Lack of sleep can lead to feelings of depression, loss of productivity, and overtime chronic disease. Additionally, driving tired has been found to be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Here are eight ways to help you sleep like a champion:

1. Stick to a schedule. As much as possible, stick to a consistent bed and wake-up time—even on weekends. This will help your body get used to bedtime and make it easier to wake up in the morning. And while you can make up for some lost sleep on days off, it’s not quite that simple.

2. Time your wake-ups. Research has shown that we sleep in 90-minute cycles. Time your wake-up to be at the end of a 90-minute cycle. For example, if you go to bed at 10 p.m. and your goal is to get seven to eight hours of sleep, getting up at 5:30 a.m. will allow you to wake at the end of a sleep cycle with a total of 7.5 hours of sleep.

3. Pay attention to what you eat and drink. Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed because discomfort can keep you up. Watch your intake of nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar late in the day, as these substances can diminish the quality of sleep.

4. Create a bedtime ritual. Do the same relaxing activities each night to tell your body that it’s time to sleep. This could be taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to music—whatever you enjoy. Be wary of watching TV or using other electronic devices such as phones or tablets before bedtime. Research suggests that screen time can interfere with falling asleep.

5. Get comfortable. Make sure your sleeping environment is ideal for you. For most, this means making your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Purchase items such as blackout shades or ear plugs that can help you achieve the optimal sleeping atmosphere.

6. Limit daytime naps. Long periods of sleeping during the day can interfere with nighttime sleeping. If you choose to sleep during the day, try to limit yourself to 10-30 minute cat naps in the mid-afternoon. Check out this article on the benefits of varying lengths of naps.

7. Make time to move. Regular physical activity does wonders to improve the quality of sleep and helps you fall asleep faster and achieve a deeper sleep. Find activities that you like and make time for them every day. Try to not exercise too close to bedtime, as some may feel too energized to fall asleep. Check out activities available through Campus Recreation and Health Promotion and Wellness’ Lifestyle Enhancement Program to find ways to move on campus.

8. Manage stress. Stress is pervasive and affects nearly every aspect of your mind and body. It’s hard to fall asleep when your mind is racing. Take as much proactive action as possible to limit your stress levels. If you find your mind racing at bedtime, take a few minutes to write down what is bothering you in a journal or make a to-do list for the next day. If you find that you cannot stop thinking about something in particular, get out of bed and do something about it. If there is nothing you can currently do to help the situation, try to let it go.

Sleeping is one of the most important things you do every day, so dedicate time and effort towards getting quality ZZZ’s. If you feel that your sleep issues are getting in the way of your daily activities, talk to your healthcare provider.

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