As we've said here before, sleep is vitally important but few of us get enough sleep or good quality sleep. We're not sleep experts, but here are some of our initial thoughts on sleep.

For most of us, the time we get up is not terribly negotiable. We have to get up early to go work. Or we need to get the kids off to school. Maybe we want to work out in the morning so we have to get up early to do that. So,

Go to bed earlier

If you have a fixed wake-up time, going to bed earlier is the only way to get more sleep. Look at your evenings and decide if all of that needs to happen. My parents, for as many years as I can remember, have the same routine. They watch TV until the news comes on at 11 PM and they watch, typically, until the weather at 15 or 20 minutes past. And then they head to bed. From my experience, this is a typical American evening.

We decided to make sleep a priority and so we adjusted our schedule. We do enjoy our evening television watching, but it's typically about 80-100 minutes worth. We stream everything we watch, so there are no commercials and we can watch it when we're ready. After that we head to bed and read a bit, usually lights out around 9 PM. I typically don't need 8 hours of sleep, so I get up early. I sometimes set an alarm, but I am usually awake, on my own, before the alarm. I typically get the sleep I need.

Dark and quiet

Good sleep is aided by a dark, quiet room. Our neighborhood is quiet, but we still wear earplugs most nights. Find those labeled 33 NR, which are the most quiet (we recently got Moldex Spark Disposable Earplugs from Amazon). The smoke alarm will still wake you up, but little noises from your partner or others in the household won't.

Get the room as dark as you can. There is a lot of research supporting the notion that we sleep better in the dark.

Wind down

Studies show that we need time to wind down. Going for a run or ride late in the evening may make it harder to fall asleep. Take time to wind down. That's why Tammy and I allow time for reading before we turn the lights out. Ideally, you should avoid "screens", but we both read our iPads before bed. It's just too convenient. I do use the "Night Light" feature of Google Play Books, which makes the screen more yellow (lowering "blue"). I also set the page to be black with white print, rather than a white screen with black print.

Track it!

There are  starting to be quite a few products that help track sleep. The only one we have used so far is the Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch. Tammy and I both have Blazes and they have always tracked sleep, but with an update in early 2017, they now track time in REM, light and deep sleep in addition to time awake. It may not be perfect, but it's pretty cool and gives us some insight into how well we sleep.

Update! Tammy has since upgraded to an Apple Watch (Happy Birthday!). It also tracks sleep, but is significantly different in how/what it reports. I'll keep my Fitbit for now, but she loves her Apple Watch. Also, Fitbit has released an updated version with onboard GPS, the Fitbit Ionic Smart Watch.

Make a change

Chances are you aren't getting enough sleep. Make some change to get more.