“Sleep is not like money—you don't borrow from yourself to just pay it back later,” explains Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. And that's actually a good thing, because you don't need to repay yourself for hours lost. However, it also means that every night is important. “If you want to keep your body working well, you need to get enough sleep, every night,” Grandner says. And the research consistently backs this up: adequate sleep can help with a healthy weight, heart, brain, and may even help to prevent diseases like diabetes.
But how to actually make it happen? Step one: aim to get plenty of light during the day. “Our internal clocks keep all of our biological rhythms in order and in sync. But since these systems are imperfect, we are constantly using light to synchronize our clocks,” Grandner says. “If we don't get a strong daytime signal of bright light, then we don't have as strong of a nighttime signal and our body has a hard time knowing when to get ready for sleep.” So get outside for at least 30 minutes daily, ideally in the morning. Then power down your devices at least an hour before bedtime. Otherwise the blue light from your phone or laptop will send a “daytime” signal to your brain and make it harder to fall asleep.