A good night’s sleep is a vital part of living a healthy life. In fact, experts say that it’s as important as diet and exercise. Bad sleep has an immediate negative effect on the body. Lack of sleep can cause hormone imbalances, reduce exercise performance ability, and even reduce brain function. In other words, it’s vital, and the better the quality of your sleep, the better the quality of your day (1).
How much do you need?
Sleep powers the mind and body. The amount you actually need is dependant on a few factors. Factors include personal differences (you might need less or more than average) and age. The National Sleep Foundation advises between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night for adults. Babies, children, and younger teens require more than adults. This is necessary to aid in growth and development (2). It is important to note that the necessary amount can vary widely from person to person. There is also a difference between acceptable and optimal amounts of sleep. Whilst most adults could function on less for a limited period of time, it isn’t ideal and can have negative impacts even in the short term.
Chronic lack of sleep can lead to (3):
- Heart disease
- Weight gain
- Heart attack
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
Some experts claim that up to 90% of people who suffer from insomnia also have another health condition (3). Lack of sleep can also cause grumpiness and mental fogginess which can lead to an increased risk of accidents. It also decreases sex drive, causes depression, ages your skin, and impairs judgment (3).
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Benefits of a good night of sleep
Attention and Concentration: Sleeping well and getting the proper amount of rest can help you keep your energy levels up. It can also help to keep your mind focused on the task at hand throughout the day. When you haven’t had enough, your attention span, ability to concentrate, and even risk assessment and reaction times can be affected (4)
Maintain a healthy weight: When you aren’t sleeping enough, you’re more likely to crave sugar to boost your energy. Your body naturally needs more energy when you’re awake for longer. When you are tired, you’re more likely to choose unhealthy foods that are high in sugar to boost your energy levels. Some research even suggests that “being sleep-deprived changes the level of hormones that signal hunger and fullness in your body” (4).
Keep your heart healthy: Lack of sleep can increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. Essentially, when you need to wake up, your body activates your cardiovascular system to increase blood pressure. When you wake up often, your body triggers the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. When this happens in tandem, the body can’t compensate for the rise in blood pressure. Your blood pressure can remain higher than normal and increase your risk of stroke or coronary heart disease. Poor sleep is also linked to poor insulin regulation in the body. The body becomes unable to properly regulate your blood sugar. When the sugar levels in the blood rise, it puts you at risk of developing diabetes.
A good night’s sleep can also help to boost the immune system, reduce stress levels, boost mental health, and even aid with learning and remembering.
Tips for sleeping better
In order to improve your sleep, try these tips (1)
- Increase your exposure to sunlight during the day to help regulate circadian rhythm
- Reduce blue light exposure in the evening
- Don’t consume caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon and evening
- Avoid long daytime naps
- Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Take a melatonin supplement
- Avoid alcohol or reduce alcohol consumption
- Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature
- Avoid eating late in the evening
- Use relaxation techniques such as meditation to prepare for sleep
- Take a relaxing bath or shower
- Exercise regularly (but not just before bed)
- Reduce your fluid intake just before bed
The bottom line
A good night is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. Making sure that you keep a good sleep schedule is vital for your long-term health. Getting too little can have very negative impacts on the body. Try to make sure that, as an adult, you get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. A smartwatch can aid you in assessing and improving your sleep patterns. It’s best to stay active during the day and wind down at least a couple of hours before bed. Try to avoid blue light and take a relaxing bath or shower to relax your body.