The Importance of Sleep for a Healthy Lifestyle
From Shakespeare’s famous line “To sleep, perchance to dream” to Blondie’s catchy lyrics from “I’m on E”, getting shut-eye has been a problem for most people. Here’s why hitting the sack and visiting the sandman should be a priority for your health.
Why You Need Your Z’s
Sleep builds memory. Overnight, your brain goes through a process called memory consolidation, taking information you’ve learned and compacting into a new thought or memory. That’s why most people tend to retain more detailed information the day after it was learned. When you have disturbed or disrupted sleep, your brain has difficulty coordinating those connections into your memory.
Sleep helps weight control. Studies show that sleep deprivation increases levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone that causes people to feel hungry even when they aren’t. Conversely, sleep deprivation decreases your levels of leptin; the hormone that tells your body it is full. With these two hormones out of whack, your body has a hard time gauging when it is hungry or full, causing people to over eat. A good night’s rest allows these hormones to accurately regulate your metabolism.
Sleep keeps you happy. Ever wake up cranky and just can’t shake it? That’s because inadequate amounts of sleep and exhaustion causes irritability, anxiety, stress, mood swings, and in severe cases, depression. Getting a full night of sleep increases your ability to make good decisions, eliminating the stress factors associated with foul moods and poor concentration.
Sleep improves your cardiovascular health. A lack of sleep has been linked to cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and irregular heart beat. Therefore, a restful night of sleep improves your metabolic functions and allows your cardiovascular system to rejuvenate overnight.
Sleep wards off illness and disease. An apple a day may keep the doctor away but the caveat to that is a full night of sleep keeps the doctor away too. Healthy adults are able to battle colds quicker, avoid chronic illnesses, and bounce back from sickness with little repercussion to their overall health. Sleep boosts your immune system to keep you at your optimal health.
Tips for a Restful Night of Quality Sleep
Your bed is for sleeping. Making your bed a hangout spot to watch the tube, eat a meal, talk on the phone, or lounge around creates an association that your bed is not just for sleeping. Find other places to do those activities and leave your bed for resting at night.
Set up a bedtime. Your body craves routine and your circadian rhythms can be balanced if you allow them to. By establishing a bedtime, you allow yourself to wind down and tire out naturally. Shut off your electronics, turn down the lights, and drift away to a peaceful slumber without thinking about the to-do list you must accomplish tomorrow.
Foster a comfortable sleeping environment. Sleep should be easy. Make sure your bed is comfy by selecting the right pillow and blanket. Drown out annoying or bothersome sounds by using a sound machine. Turn off all lights (hallways and nightlights can keep you up). A gentle scented candle can provide you with some aromatherapy to ease your mind. Your bedroom should be the most cozy and relaxing place in your home.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals before bed. These stimulants cause you to stay wide-awake past your bedtime. Steer clear of coffee, teas, soda, and chocolate. If you get hungry before bed, have a protein filled snack. Foods that are packed with protein produce melatonin and serotonin, hormones that trigger relaxation.
Exercise at the right time. Working out produces high amount of adrenaline and gives you energy to keep you going even when your workout is over. Try to workout in the morning before work or the early evening after work. That way your body has time to wind down before bed.
Napping isn’t just for kids. After about 8 hours of being awake, your body begins to slow down. A quick 20-minute nap can help you feel refreshed and ready to attack the remainder of your day.
Be weary of the sleep aids. Over-the-counter sleeping pills have their benefits for those really tough nights. They can be helpful during the stress of finals or when you are jet lagged from your summer vacation. Yet, sleeping agents should not be used daily as your tolerance increase over time. Side effects include drowsiness, forgetfulness, and irritability.
Sleep just isn’t your friend. If getting restful sleep is really a problem, consult your doctor for medical advice. Sleeping disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea are common and can lead to serious health problems down the line.
Harvard Medical School – Sleep, Learning, and Memory
USA Today – Sleep Loss May Equate to Weight Gain
Anxiety and Depression Association of America – Sleep Disorders
Time Health – Lack of Sleep Link to Heart Problems
CBS News – Poor Sleep Increases Risk of Getting Sick