Sleep plays a vastly underappreciated role in our overall health and wellbeing. Good quality sleep each night improves health, mood, and brain function. Conversely, poor quality or not enough sleep regularly, increases your risk for many diseases and disorders. According to Dr. Marishka Brown, sleep expert at NIH.gov, good quality sleep isn’t just the number of hours spent in bed, it encompasses how much sleep you get, the quality of sleep and a consistent sleep schedule.
Here are 10 Health Benefits of Quality Sleep
- Sleep Improves Heart Health – during deep sleep your body releases hormones and proteins the clean and repair your blood vessels and heart.
- Sleep Reduces Stress – during deep sleep your mental and physical body process and recover from your daily events.
- Sleep Helps Regulate Metabolism – during deep sleep your body works on balancing metabolic processes.
- Sleep Reduces Inflammation – good quality sleep helps regulate and improve the function of your immune system which is a key factor in controlling inflammation.
- Sleep Makes You More Alert – good quality sleep makes you feel invigorated and alert, helping you focus and get things done effectively.
- Sleep Improves Memory Recall – Research has shown that good sleep helps the brain process the events of each day, make connections between events, sensory input, emotions, feelings, and memories, helps build and store memories and links.
- Sleep May Help Weight Loss – Research has discovered a link between people with poor sleep and weight gain or obesity. Lack of sleep disrupts key appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin which regulate appetite.
- Sleep Helps Physical & Emotional Balance – good quality sleep helps maintain physical and emotional harmony improving coordination, stability, and resilience.
- Sleep Helps Cognitive Function – good quality sleep helps prepare the brain to learn, create problem solve and remove proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Sleep Helps the Body Heal – during good quality sleep the body is at work repairing damage caused by stress, chemicals, toxins, illness and other harmful encounters. Cells produce certain protein molecules during sleep that help rebuild and repair cellular damage. The brain removing waste from the system, and everything from blood vessels to bones use sleep to repair.
According to Johns Hopkins sleep researcher, Patrick Finan, Ph.D., sleep deprivation has far reaching detrimental effects.
- 6,000 fatal car crashes occur each year from overtired drivers
- 1 in 25 adults have fallen asleep while driving in the past 30 days
- Lack of quality sleep increases dementia risk by 33%
- Poor sleep increases cravings for sweet, salty, and starchy foods
- Sleep deprivation increases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and lowers levels of the appetite control hormone leptin
- People who sleep less than 5 hours per night increase their obesity risk by 50%
- Poor sleep reduces immune system function making colds 3x more likely
- Sleep deprivation impacts balance & coordination increasing risk of accident or injury
- Poor sleep increases risk of colorectal cancer by 36%
- Sleep deprivation makes a person 3x more likely to develop type 2 diabetes
- Poor sleep linked to depression, irritability, forgetfulness, fuzzy thinking
- Sleep deprivation increases risk of high blood pressure
- Poor sleep increases heart disease risk by 48%
People who work rotating shifts or night shift may have more difficulty getting quality sleep. People with multiple pets or special needs pets may also find it challenging to get a good night’s sleep as do parents with young children, but there are ways you can improve your quality and consistency with a little effort and practice. Sleep may seem like an impossible dream when you’re awake at 3 a.m., but quality, consistent sleep is more under your control than you might think. Setting and following healthy sleep habits can make the difference between restlessness and peaceful slumber. Researchers at Harvard have identified a variety of practices and habits that can help anyone maximize the quality & hours they spend sleeping, even those whose struggle with insomnia, jet lag, or other disruptions.
13 Tips to Get Better Sleep:
- Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine & Nicotine – Caffeine, nicotine and even alcohol act as stimulants that can keep you awake or disrupt your quality of sleep. Avoid black tea, coffee, chocolate, soda and certain pain relievers 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Alcohol is considered a depressant, but after a few hours it acts like a stimulant increasing the number of times you awaken at night and decreasing the quality of sleep. Avoid drinking 3 hours before bedtime and limit consumption to 1 to 2 drinks per day or less.
- Turn Your Bedroom into a Sleep Oasis – a cool, dark, quiet bedroom helps promote deep, sound sleep. Use earplugs or a sound machine to drown out external noise, blackout curtains or an eye mask to block light and keep the temperature at night between 60 and 72°F with good ventilation. A comfortable mattress, pillow, and sheets/blankets improve sleep quality and quantity. Keeping TVs, computers, cell phones and work materials out of the bedroom helps the mind strengthen the association between sleep and your bedroom. If a pet regularly wakes you up at night you may want to find another space for your furry friend to sleep.
- Create a Relaxing Pre-Sleep Routine – deep breathing, meditating, affirmations, prayer, light reading, journaling, bathing, or soothing music are all excellent ways to prepare for sleep. Ease into this routine an hour or so prior to bedtime. Avoid stressful or stimulating activities like exercise, work, emotional discussions which increase stress hormones and alertness.
- Sleep When You’re Tired –If you struggle to fall asleep or wake up during the night and can’t get back to sleep in 20 minutes or so, do something quiet like read with a low watt light, journal, listen to sleep inducing frequency music, or pray for everyone you can think of.
- Don’t Watch the Clock – Staring at the clock when you’re trying to fall asleep, getting on Facebook or other electronics can increase stress and make it harder to fall asleep. Turn any clocks away from your bed so you can’t see the time if you wake up in the middle of the night. Don’t turn on lights as that can stimulate your mind and body to wide awake. Do something relaxing like deep breathing, listening to binaural beats, guided meditation or imagine sending love and peace to everyone you know and everyone around the world.
- Use Natural Light to Your Advantage – sunlight keeps your internal clock on a balanced sleep cycle. Let light into your bedroom first thing in the morning. Even if you wear a sleep mask your body will react to natural sunlight. If you work indoors, take a break or two during the day and get outside to reset and harmonize your natural sleep rhythms.
- Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule – designating a regular sleep schedule can ensure better quality and quantity of sleep consistently. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day sets your internal clock to expect sleep at a specific time daily and makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Nap Early – If you have the time and need to nap each day do it before 3pm and keep it short so it doesn’t disrupt your normal sleep patterns. Late day naps decrease the normal drive for sleep at night.
- Eat Light at Night – eating dinner late at night or making dinner the largest meal of the day is a recipe for insomnia. Ideally eat dinner 3 – 4 hours before bedtime and avoid large, heavy meals that may cause indigestion. If you want to eat pizza, spaghetti or burgers have them for lunch and do salad, soup, or sautéed veggies for dinner.
- Stay Hydrated – if you find yourself waking up thirsty you may not be drinking enough water before bedtime. Conversely you don’t want to catch up on your water for the day right before bed or you’ll be up all night going to the bathroom. Ideally you should stay hydrated consistently during the day and continue, but reduce fluid intake prior to bedtime.
- Exercise Regularly & Early – regular exercise promotes more restful sleep if done several hours prior to bedtime. It can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply as long as it’s done early. Exercise does not need to be intense to have beneficial effects, but it does need to be consistent.
- Follow Through – all of these tips can help you sleep better, longer, and faster, but some will be easier to implement than others. Consistency will greatly improve your success. Not all sleep problems can be treated with these tips. Sleep apnea, narcolepsy and other clinical problems may require special treatment, so talk to your healthcare specialist to help determine if you need medical support.
- Manage Worries – try to resolve or release your worries and concerns of the day before bedtime. Write down to do lists, problems, struggles, or fears and set them aside for tomorrow or ask your subconscious to help you find solutions during your sleep. Stress management can help. Set priorities, get organized, delegate tasks, say no to things that add more pressure or stress to your life. Deep breathing, prayer, affirmations, journaling and meditation can help your release stress, fall asleep faster and sleep better.
As someone who has suffered from sleep disturbances for years I can tell you first hand how serious prolonged lack of sleep or poor sleep can be for your physical and mental health. Don’t wait another day to make self-care your number one priority. You cannot have a happy, productive, successful life without first having good health. Make a commitment to yourself to become an expert in quality sleep for yourself and your loved ones.
This article was based on information found in the above related articles.