Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Recently, the Fitness & Wellness Division has shared information on Life’s Essential 8™ – critical factors for improving and maintaining heart health, as defined by the American Heart Association. Past monthly awareness campaigns have included an introduction to the Essential 8 cardiovascular health target areas (September 2022) and steps to manage blood sugar in conjunction with National Diabetes Awareness Month (November 2022). This month we turn our attention to sleep with a focus on common sleep problems, recommended hours of sleep, and tips for setting up healthy sleep habits. 

Exhausted? Tossing and turning? Not getting a good night’s sleep? Sleep problems are common, and there are ways to improve the quality of your sleep with benefits to both physical and mental well-being. Common sleep problems include:

  • Trouble falling asleep – lying in bed for more than 30 minutes without being able to fall asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep – waking up frequently during the night
  • Early morning waking – waking before you need to get up and not being able to fall back asleep
  • Behaviors that interfere with sleep – snoring, grinding teeth, restless legs, sleepwalking, and breathing problems
  • Sleeping too much or for too long
  • Excessive sleepiness or urge to nap during the day
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy

Sleep problems can hurt mental health by influencing emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. When sleep is disturbed, you might feel irritable, grumpy, sad, anxious, worried, or stressed. Sleep problems can make it difficult to concentrate, think clearly, or make decisions. If you’re wondering how many hours of sleep your body needs, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend 7 to 12 hours, depending on age.

Age Group


Recommended Hours of Sleep


4-12 months

12-16 hours per 24 hours, including naps


1-2 years

11-14 hours per 24 hours, including naps


3-5 years

10-13 hours per 24 hours, including naps

School Age

6-12 years

9-12 hours a night


13-18 years

8-10 hours a night


18+ years

7 -9 hours per night


Individuals do indeed have different sleep needs. Some naturally need less sleep, while others need more. For adults, consistently sleeping fewer than 6 hours a night or more than 10 hours per day can have health risks or be a sign of another health problem. One of the most powerful ways to improve sleep is to make small changes in everyday behaviors that impact how fast you fall asleep and whether you stay asleep. To improve sleep hygiene, focus on increasing behaviors that will enhance sleep, naturally reducing behaviors that interfere with sleep. Follow these tips for getting a good night’s sleep.

Tip #1: Avoid caffeine close to bedtime. Some people have problems sleeping when they have consumed too much caffeine.

Tip #2: Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. It may feel like alcohol helps you fall asleep faster, but alcohol can disrupt your sleep by causing breathing problems and jerky arms and legs.

Tip #3: Unwind. Stress dramatically impacts sleep, so it is essential to relax before bed. Read a good book, do a crossword puzzle, take a bath or shower, listen to calming music or try a relaxation exercise. Screen time is stimulating, and the blue light emitted by devices can affect sleep. It’s recommended to avoid watching TV, going online, or using other electronic devices for at least 30 minutes before bed.

Tip #4: Exercise a few hours before bedtime. Research indicates that people who exercise regularly (30 to 60 minutes, 3-5 times a week) have a deeper sleep. In addition, exercising boosts energy, so it is best to exercise four to eight hours before bedtime. 

Tip #5: Follow the same routine. Try to keep the same sleep and wake schedule every day, including weekends. Maintaining a consistent schedule allows your body to establish a routine. 

Tip #6: Avoid naps if you experience sleep problems. Naps aren’t necessarily a problem, but for some, naps may interfere with sleep at night. If you are experiencing problems with sleep, consider cutting out naps to see if your sleep improves. It is best to keep naps short, around 30 minutes at most, to minimize disruptions to your standard sleep patterns. However, if you feel so tired that you can’t get through the day without a nap, you should talk with your doctor. It can signify another health problem, including a sleep disorder.

Tip #7: Avoid going to bed too full or too hungry. Eating balanced, healthy meals and snacks regularly throughout the day will help with a good night’s sleep. Try to avoid eating a large meal two hours before bedtime. 

Tip #8: Get up if you do not fall asleep within half an hour. Leave your bedroom and do something relaxing, like listening to soft music, taking a bath, drinking a warm caffeine-free beverage, or meditating. Avoid watching TV or going on your phone during this time. Then, go back to bed once you feel very drowsy. At first, this might feel like falling asleep is getting worse because you may have a few sleepless nights. However, it will become easier to fall asleep and stay asleep after several nights. Be consistent in your use of this strategy. Studies do show it is very effective in reversing sleep problems. 

Tip #9: Make your bedroom comfortable and only use it for sleeping. A mattress with good support and comfortable bedding are both helpful. Ensure your room is not too hot or too cold – slightly cool is best. Don’t use your bed to watch TV, work, study, or do other mentally stimulating activities.

Tip #10: Challenge your belief that you cannot function without a perfect night’s sleep. When you can’t sleep, you might check the clock and worry about getting through the upcoming day. This increases anxiety and makes it even harder to fall back asleep. Instead, turn the clock away from your view. Remind yourself that you can likely do your daily activities even when you feel tired (unless this would pose a danger to yourself or others).



The American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8

Life’s Essential 8 – How to Get Healthy Sleep

Sleep your Way to Whole Body Health

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Manage Blood Sugar with the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8

Knowing how sugar (glucose) and insulin work in the body is essential for understanding how diabetes impacts health. Diabetes happens when the body has a chronic build-up of extra sugar in the bloodstream, causing blood sugar (also called blood glucose) levels to rise higher than average, known as hyperglycemia. When you eat, your body breaks food down into sugar and sends it into the blood. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps move the sugar from the blood into your cells. When sugar enters your cells, it is either used as fuel for energy right away or stored for later use. In a person with diabetes, there is a problem with insulin. And not everyone with diabetes has the same insulin problem. There are different types of diabetes – type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. If you have diabetes – type 1, type 2, or gestational – your body either doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use the insulin well, or both.

Nutrition and physical activity are essential parts of a healthy lifestyle when you have diabetes. Following a healthy meal plan and being active can help keep blood sugar in your target range. Managing blood sugar is about balancing what you eat and drink with physical activity and diabetes medicine, if you take any. What you choose to eat, how much you eat, and when you eat are critical in keeping your blood glucose level in the range your healthcare team recommends. The American Diabetes Association recommends using the Diabetes Plate Method to create perfectly portioned meals with a healthy balance of vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates – without counting, calculating, weighing, or measuring. 

Remember, along with diet and medication, regular physical activity is an integral part of managing diabetes or dealing with prediabetes. When your body is active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin, working more effectively to lower your blood sugar. Light walking is a great place to start and a great habit to incorporate into your life. Walking with a loved one or just by yourself while listening to an audiobook are good ways to move more. If you are struggling with getting started or feeling overwhelmed by the idea of creating a more active life, there are health coaching resources available to support you through this behavior change journey. 

Community resources are available if you are concerned about your risk for developing diabetes or are looking for help in managing your current diabetes diagnosis. 

Anthem ConditionCare offers tools and support to Henrico County health plan subscribers and their covered family members for diabetes management.

The Balm in Gilead – Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative – Virginia, 620 Moorefield Park Drive, Suite 150, Richmond, VA 23226. (804) 644-2256

Bon Secours Center for Healthy Living Sarah Garland Jones Center, 2600 Nine Mile Road, Richmond, VA 23223. (804) 287-7941

VCU Health Hub at 25th, 1330 N. 25th Street, Suite A, Richmond, VA 23223. (804) 628-6401

Henrico County Employee Health Services offers health education and individualized dietary counseling. 7740 Shrader Rd, Suite A, Henrico, VA 23228. (804) 501-1600


Resource list:

‘Managing blood sugar’ link: 

‘Diabetes Plate Method link:,you%20need%20is%20a%20plate!

‘Health coaching resources’ link:

‘Diabetes risk’ link:


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Finding Your Way to Well-being

Self-care can take many forms. At its core, it’s about doing things that support and nourish your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and well-being. This is especially true when it comes to managing stress. It’s about being in tune with what you need to take care of YOU.

One way to thrive more is with consistent self-care practices. These may change over time or even daily. The key is to consistently do something daily. Here are some ways you may choose to practice self-care:

  • Take a walk or hike
  • Meditate
  • Read for pleasure
  • Keep a journal
  • Make time for friends
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Listen to calming music
  • Make sleep a priority
  • Make time for health care appointments

To get a jump start on setting up daily self-care activities, use a monthly calendar to record your efforts. Intentionally set aside time within your day to:

Be mindful – such as a gratitude journal or avoid doing other things while eating to become a mindful eater

Move more – like getting up from your desk to take a walk break or track your steps

Nourish your body – bringing healthy snacks to work and avoid overeating at night

Sleep well – use ear plugs, a fan, or a white noise machine to block out disruptive nighttime noise

Whether they suit you on a daily or you commit to them once a month, make it a priority to add them to your routine to help yourself feel better, whenever.


“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible.” – Audrey Hepburn, American Actor

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Team Henrico and the Corporate 5k Recap

Team Henrico wants to thank the Henrico County employees who participated in the Anthem Corporate 5k! This was the first year in a while that we could join in person, and we hoped to reclaim one of our first-place titles. After a pre-race meetup that included lots of socializing around intense games of giant Jenga, the 5k got underway. Congratulations to Colin Baumgartner (HCPS), who finished in 7th place overall with a time of 19:25! Once the race was complete, everyone enjoyed music, mingling, food, and more Jenga before heading home. If you are wondering if Team Henrico accomplished our goal, you will have to watch the accompanying slideshow to find out!

Thank you to all the employees, friends, and family members for their support and cheering on the Team Henrico participants. Be on the lookout for the next Team Henrico event you can participate in, and help us make the group bigger!

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Keep it Cool During Warm Weather Workouts

Time It Right

  • Get outside during the coolest parts of the day, like the morning or evening
  • Avoid outdoor activity from 12-3 PM, the hottest part of the day
  • Give yourself time to warm up and cool down before each activity

Stay Hydrated

  • Drink water before, during and after activities, even if you don’t feel thirsty
  • Fuel up with hydrating fruits and veggies, smoothies and infused water
  • Carry a water bottle or hydration pack with you for easy hydration

Dress for Comfort

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothes made with moisture-wicking fabrics
  • Lace up with breathable shoes, lightweight socks and supportive insoles
  • Protect yourself with sunglasses, waterproof sunscreen and a hat or visor

Make it fun with warm-weather activities like:

  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Outdoor Yoga

For more ideas on staying active, visit

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Sun Safety: Protect Your Skin

Summer is full of outdoor activities. So, of course, you probably put sunscreen on yourself and your kids when you go to the pool or the beach. But do you know you should protect your skin with more than just sunscreen anytime you’re outside?

Sun protection is essential all year round, and it’s best to use several different kinds. When you’re working in the yard, watching a ballgame, or taking an afternoon walk, make sun safety an everyday habit so you can avoid sunburn and lower your chance of getting skin cancer.

Here are some tips to help make sure you and your family stay sun-safe:

Why is sun protection so important? Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays causes most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. Protect your skin from the sun and avoid indoor tanning to lower your skin cancer risk. Here are some skin cancer fast facts to be mindful of:

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and includes different types.
  • The sun’s UV rays can damage unprotected skin in as little as 15 minutes.
  • Even if it’s cool and cloudy, you still need protection. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage.
  • Anyone can get skin cancer, but some things put you at higher risk.
  • The most common signs of skin cancer are changes on your skin, such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole.

Publication Date: 4/25/2017

Last Updated: 5/23/2017

Attribution: Content provided and maintained by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Please see our system usage guidelines and disclaimer.


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The Division of Fire Continues Their Reign

The May 6th all-employee kick-off reenergized the sixth anniversary of the Public Safety Games season. Forty-six registered athletes between Police, Fire, and Sheriff began to compete for the 2022 Fittest Public Safety Division bragging rights by accumulating as many points as possible over four weeks. There were three individual events, four team events, and ten mini-event challenges for the athletes to attempt. (Visit our SharePoint page for a complete list of events.) The top teams with the most points earned them a spot in the head-to-head final obstacle course challenge, and the division with the highest total number of points was declared the overall division winner. The energy and motivation surrounding the events by each athlete was invigorating and really turned up the heat of the friendly competition. (Check out our SharePoint page to see pictures of each challenge.)

There was a lot of anticipation going into the final team challenge as there was no clear overall winner at that time. Thus, the first to finish the final challenge would be the decide the winner for the entire Public Safety Games season!

The final competition was the consummation of many performance tasks a tactical athlete could endure: teamwork, communication, tactical awareness, mental acuity, dexterity, maneuvering, endurance tasks, strength tasks, and the overall ability to work for an extended period in a high-stress environment. Zachary Sayles and Nathan Beahm from the Division of Fire went head-to-head with Dustin Hazelgrove and Trevor Holmes from the Police Division for the title by completing a seven-part obstacle course with a mental twist:

View the Final Obstacle Course Event recap video.

Congratulations to Zachary Sayles, Nathan Beahm, and the Division of Fire for claiming the Fittest Public Safety Division of the year title for the fourth time! Their names have been added to the Public Safety Games “Fittest Public Safety Division” plaque inside the lobby at the Henrico Training Center. We look forward to the 7th anniversary of the Public Safety Games in 2023, as our vision continues to unfold.

If you are sworn public safety personnel interested in either the Public Safety Games or joining our sworn-only fitness programs, please contact Joshua Gaskins at or 501-7218. 

For more information about all of our programs, please view the Fitness and Wellness Division Sharepoint page


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Return of the Public Safety Games

For the first time since the inception of the Public Safety Games, on Friday, May 6, 2022, over 50 employees, fans, and volunteers from many different departments contributed to the kick-off of the 6th anniversary Public Safety Games Kick-Off after a 2-year hiatus due to COVID-19.


Participants of varying fitness levels completed many different physically and mentally engaging challenges with the incentive to win both door prizes and potential votes for this year’s fan favorite. Fitness and Wellness chose specific challenges to help participants gain insight into the drills used to physically and mentally train our public safety heroes. These exercises included wall vaulting, window climbing, the Keiser sled, tire flips, the how-to or pull-up challenge, fit-tac-toe, stair climb word find, Echo Bike Jenga, and a 150-pound dummy drag. In addition, many other attractions like the K9 Unit, the Bomb Squad, a Fire Truck, and a Sheriff Recruit Vehicle were available to tour. Each successful challenge completed earned a Bucket Beirut toss to vote for the Fan Favorite. Congratulations to the Division of Police for winning the “Fan Favorite” and 50 points toward your divisional Public Safety Games score!


During the month-long competitions, eight teams of 2 and 35 individuals from Henrico’s Police, Fire, and Sheriff divisions are competing in Endurance, Work Capacity, Strength, and Mini Event challenges to determine who will win the title of the Fittest Public Safety Division of 2022. Currently, the Police Division is in the lead, with about 50% of the events still to be tallied. Stay tuned by following the leaderboard here:


We invite you to come to watch the explosive and entertaining final obstacle course team competition Friday, June 3 from 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM at the Henrico Training Center.


Check out our kick-off recap video!


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Recap: Monument Avenue 10K with Team Henrico

On Saturday, April 23, County Employees from General Government and Schools rolled out of bed early to participate in the Monument Avenue 10K. This year’s theme, “Back and Better,” highlighted the long-awaited return of Richmond’s premiere block party to Monument Avenue after a 2-year hiatus. Ninety-five employees, who took advantage of the Team Henrico registration discount, laced up their running shoes and hit the pavement (and at times the historic cobblestones) for a great race.


Enjoy the Team Henrico slideshow with pictures of your co-workers and the Spirit Team mighty in their efforts to cheer on all 10K participants!

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