A recent report from Express Scripts, a prescription benefit plan provider, confirmed that the use of anti-insomnia medications has spiked. Filled prescriptions increasing by 21% between February and March 2020, and those numbers peaked during the week of March 15 — the same week, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the US declared a national emergency in response to the crisis.

We all know how much better we feel after a good night’s sleep, but a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that around 35 percent of American adults routinely fall short of the recommended seven to nine hours of rest per night. 

There are many reasons to include quality sleep on your Health and Wellness priority list.

Our bodies and minds accomplish a great deal while we are sleeping and “out of the way” for several hours. Toxins in the brain that accumulate during our waking hours are removed while we sleep. During sleep, the immune system releases cytokines, proteins produced by our cells, that help regulate the body’s response to disease, infection, inflammation, and trauma. Sleep has such a significant effect on the body’s organs and systems in general. A chronic lack of it increases the risk of disorders, ranging from high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. 

Here are some reliable tips to significantly improve your mental and physical health by improving your sleep habits:

Practice deep breathing and other relaxation techniques immediately before bedtime to help reduce stress, which is a guaranteed enemy of the deep sleep phase.

• As best you can, go to bed and wake up at the same time seven days a week, rather than any time you feel like it. 

Make sure your bedroom maintains a temperature of between sixty-six to seventy-two degrees. If your room is too warm, it can interfere with your body’s tendency to sleep more reliably when your core temperature drops. Also, a study by the National Institute of Health has demonstrated that sleeping in a cool room can burn more calories during sleep and activate your metabolism by increasing levels of brown fat, a kind of fat that’s triggered when the body gets cold.

Make sure your bedroom is dark to encourage your body’s natural release of melatonin. According to multiple studies, there is a phenomenon called “iPad insomnia,” which refers to the blue light emanating from electronic screens—cell phones, computers, laptops, iPads, etc.—throws off the body’s biological clock and circadian rhythm. The strong recommendation is to turn off all electronic devices, including your TV, at least one to two hours before bedtime.

Create a relaxation routine before you go to bed. A warm salt-water bath, read, a stroll in fresh air, a cup of chamomile tea, or anything that helps your body and mind wind down. This means no checking emails, voicemails, text messages, or social media (one last time), no exercise for a few hours before bedtime, and no caffeine or alcohol.

• If you have trouble falling asleep or wake up during the night and cannot go back to sleep, don’t lie awake as it’s likely to make you anxious that you’re not sleeping. Instead, get up and repeat some part of your relaxation ritual, whether it’s reading or listening to music or having another cup of chamomile tea until you feel sleep coming on again.

Take your sleeping habits as seriously as you take your other health concerns. If you have trouble sleeping that becomes chronic or have reason to believe that you are not refreshed and reenergized from your sleep, see your doctor. Most sleep disorders can be dealt with very effectively, so don’t write them off as normal or hopeless. Quality sleep is not one of life’s luxuries; it’s a requirement.