You know that you should prioritize sleep, but sometimes that's way easier said than done, especially during difficult times. With a global pandemic, the holidays, and a chaotic year in general, sleep could be the last thing you're getting enough of these days. But getting better sleep deserves a high spot on your to-do list now more than ever.

Besides leaving you rested, less stressed, and more energized, a good night's sleep is a real game-changer for your health. Even though the exact number of hours can vary, you need seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you chronically get less than that, you could be suffering from some of the consequences of sleep deprivation that can wreak havoc on everything from your gut health to your sex drive.

1. Improved mental health
The CDC reported that in late June 2020 at least 40% of Americans said that they're struggling with mental health in the wake of COVID-19. According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep or poor sleep is connected to mental health disorders including anxiety and depression.
"Certainly, we're all familiar with not getting enough sleep and feeling irritable or even anxious or depressed. And especially now, we're really being put to the test with what's going on in the world right now," says Dr. Deirdre Conroy, a University of Michigan behavioral sleep specialist says.

While it's not entirely understood how sleep and mental health are connected, we know they influence one another. The relationship is complicated, since mental health issues like anxiety can prevent you from getting restful sleep, and the lack of sleep certainly doesn't improve the anxiety. The bottom line is that good sleep is a step in the right direction for better mental health.

2. Stronger Immune System
Almost everyone is concerned about immune health, especially as we face flu season in the midst of a global pandemic. One thing we do know about the immune system is that you need good sleep for it to function well. Lack of sleep makes it harder for your body to fight off illness, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

One of the ways lack of sleep affects your immune system is by lowering the special proteins that fight off infections and inflammation. When your body's natural immune defenses are down, that means you're more likely to get sick. Lack of sleep may also affect how your body responds to vaccines, which is another reason to prioritize good rest.

Sleep is important for heart health and preventing cardiovascular disease.

3. Lower risk of heart disease
Getting enough sleep at night can make a difference in heart disease risk factors, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Studies show that not getting enough sleep is linked to weight gain, hypertension, and inflammation (among other risks).
Sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea are also associated with heart disease risk, showing a link between conditions that involve poor sleep and heart health.

4. Lower risk for diabetes and obesity
When you're well-rested, you're more likely to exercise and make better choices when it comes to food. Besides this, there is also some research that shows a molecular tie between not getting enough sleep and weight gain.
Exercise and eating well are key factors in preventing risk factors for diabetes and preventing obesity. Further, your sleep quality is linked to how your body metabolizes glucose (your blood sugar) and studies show a link between poor sleep and diabetes risk. Sleep helps you feel more focused and productive at work.

5. Better focus and productivity
After a bad night's sleep, trying to focus on work or anything for that matter is tough. If you're not prioritizing good sleep, you could be paying for it with hours of lost productivity and focus.
Breaking bad habits before and after you get into bed can go a long way to improving your sleep. Here are some that will get you on the right track.

Avoid the news and social media. About two hours before you want to go to sleep, you shouldn't consume any news, social media, or anything potentially negative or stressful, Butler said.

Wake up at the same time every day, no matter what time you go to sleep. When you shift your focus from when you go to sleep to when you wake up, your body starts to acclimate, and goes to sleep at the same time every night, studies show.
Limit caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate, especially at night. All of these are stimulants that can keep you awake.

Get out of bed. Many people fall into a pattern: You get into bed and lie awake worrying about whether or not you're going to fall asleep. Then, your brain starts to associate your bed with a place where you go to lie awake and worry about sleep, as opposed to a cue for actually going to sleep, Snow said.

You want to break that link. If you notice that you're lying awake in bed worrying about sleeping, you should get out of bed and go do something quiet and relaxing, like read a book on your couch. When you start to feel drowsy, go back to bed. You don't want the bed to become the stimulus for staying awake.

Put yourself in a better emotional state
Sleep relies on the connection between your body and mind. And there are simple ways to put your mind in a better emotional state to help yourself fall asleep faster.

Avoid catastrophizing. Our thoughts and worries play a major role in our ability to sleep. "You cannot force yourself to sleep, so try to avoid putting pressure on yourself to sleep or catastrophizing if you don't sleep," she added. That means avoiding the anxious spiral of what will happen the next day if you don't fall asleep soon.
Challenge those thoughts and worries, and try to replace them with more helpful ones like, "I didn't sleep well last night, but I'll be OK today" to relieve some of that anxiety. Try out different exercises like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to help you fall asleep.

Another trick is to sing the ABCs in your head, over and over. That will keep your brain from thinking about anything else, and eventually wear it out like a muscle to help you fall asleep.

And remember: humans can function fine even when we're tired. Think of new parents who've been up all night with their baby, or emergency room doctors who have been on call for days. It may not be comfortable, but it's not impossible.

Here are also lots of prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids that you can find at

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Kristine Blanche's health center provides health services in NY like Breast Thermography, Vitamin drips, Holistic health, Healthy detox, liver cleanse, detoxification, Functional medicine, Weight loss, and Nutrition.