Sleep is a part of our daily lives and for many of us it is some of the most cherished time of the day, while for others it is dreaded or often neglected. Regardless of how you feel about sleep personally, we have all heard about the need for sleep and how it is beneficial for our health. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep on a regular schedule each night in order to have them properly ready to go for the challenges that lie ahead. Now, getting those 7 or 8 hours each night can be difficult with all the stresses of life and responsibilities we may have, but we hope this week’s Health Journal can help. In this piece, we will further discuss the benefits of a good night’s rest and how to get that desired better sleep.
Benefits of good sleep:
When getting a good night’s rest, it makes us feel more energetic and focused on the day ahead, but sleep provides a lot of benefits we may not always notice. Below we have broken down a few ways sleep can effect different parts of our lives, even in ways we may not have known.
- Weight: It is true that poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain and those who tend to have a short sleep duration are likely to weigh significantly more than those who get an adequate night’s rest. The effects of sleep on weight gain are believed to be impacted by a number of factors, including hormones and motivation to exercise. If you are trying to lose weight or get in better shape, getting quality sleep is a crucial step to accomplishing this goal.
- Concentration and Productivity: Sleep impacts various aspects of brain function including cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. All of which can be negatively affected by sleep deprivation. For example, one study on medical interns found that interns with extended work hours of more than 24 hours made 36% more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed for more sleep. This is just one example, but it shows the negative effects that sleep deprivation can have.
- Reduce risk of Heart Disease and Stroke: Sleep quality and duration are believed to drive chronic diseases, including heart disease. A review of 15 studies found that people who don’t get enough sleep are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7-8 hours per night.
- Improves Immune Function: It has been shown that even a small loss of sleep can impair immune function. One large study monitored the development of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the cold virus. The study found that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost 3 times more likely to develop the cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.
- Mood boost: Another benefit of sleep is that our brain processes our emotions during this time. Our mind needs this time in order to recognize these emotions and react in the proper way. When cutting your sleep short, you will tend to have more negative emotional reactions and fewer positive ones. Chronic lack of sleep can also increase your chances of having a mood disorder and one large study showed that people with insomnia were 5 times more likely to develop depression.
How to get better sleep:
Now that we have discussed the importance of sleep and how it effects our day-to-day lives and long-term health, you may still be struggling with getting to sleep. In this next section, we will provide some tips that will help you fall asleep more quickly and enhance your ability to get those 7 or 8 hours you need.
- Blue light: Exposure to light during the day can be beneficial, but too much light exposure at night can have the exact opposite effect. Exposure to light affects our circadian rhythm, which can trick our brain into thinking it is still daytime and reduces hormones like melatonin, which help us get that desired deep sleep. Blue light specifically, which comes from electronic devices like our phones or computers, is the worst for us in this regard. To reduce nighttime blue light exposure, you can wear glasses that block the light, install apps that block the blue light on your phone or stop watching TV and turn off bright lights 2 hours before bed.
- Caffeine: Whether it’s our morning coffee or energy drinks, many of us consume caffeine on a daily basis. Now, caffeine does have numerous health benefits and is consumed by 90% of the population, but reducing your caffeine intake late in the day can lead to better sleep. A single dose of caffeine can enhance our focus and energy, but when consumed late in the day, it can stimulate the nervous system and stop your body from naturally relaxing at night. Caffeine can also stay elevated in your blood for 6-8 hours, so it might be best to skip that coffee at 3-4 p.m.
- Reduce long naps: Admittedly, short power naps are beneficial, but long and irregular napping during the day can negatively impact your sleep at night. Sleeping during the day can disrupt and confuse your internal clock, causing you to have trouble sleeping at later points in the day. Some studies have shown that those who have become accustomed to taking regular daytime naps, have adjusted to this schedule and can sleep just fine. If you find naps in the afternoon to be helpful, try to keep them on a regular schedule since this can benefit you at night as well.
- Bedroom temperature: Both your body and bedroom temperature can have a dramatic impact on your sleep quality. As you have probably experienced in the summer, it can be hard to get a good night’s rest when it is too warm and you feel too hot. One study found that the temperature of the sleeping environment has a bigger impact on sleep quality then external noise. Around 70 degrees is considered to be a comfortable temperature for most people, but this does depend on personal preference.