The benefits of sufficient, quality sleep are often touted in the medical community. Yet, in our fast-paced world, it often feels as if getting enough shut-eye each evening is more of a luxury than a necessity. Being that several key bodily processes take place during sleep, including restoration and strengthening, slumber should be considered as important as drinking water and taking in nutrients.
While experts are still investigating the science of sleep, what we do know is that sleep allows the body to:
- Replenish energy
- Repair muscles
- Maintain important bodily functions
- Let the brain process new information
Of course, we’re also well aware of what can happen when we’re sleep-deprived. For instance, we lose the ability to focus, react, and control our emotions. This can affect our relationships and even our work lives. Over time, the effects compound: long-term lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of serious health issues, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. It’s also suspected to impair immune system functioning, making you more susceptible to infections.
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
The recommended sleep windows vary with age. For instance, while teens generally need eight to ten hours, adults may only need seven to nine. Seniors may benefit from even fewer hours, and might only need to clock seven to eight hours each night.
What Are the Benefits of Getting Enough Sleep?
As soon as you begin getting enough sleep, you may notice immediate benefits such as improved concentration and reduced fatigue. Over time, you could experience long-term benefits, such as:
- Reduced caloric intake: Lack of sleep can interfere with the chemicals that control hunger. Thus, when you’re not well-rested, you may find yourself overeating.
- Controlled inflammation: Sleep loss could cause widespread inflammation, potentially damaging the tissues and cells.
- Improved cognitive function: Better sleep results in increased productivity, better memory, and improved concentration compared to people who are sleep deprived.
- Decreased risk of heart disease: Healthier sleep habits reduce the risk for cardiovascular issues, including high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.
- Reduced risk of depression: Mental illnesses such as depression often go hand-in-hand with poor sleep. 90% of people with diagnosed depression experience sleep troubles. Getting enough sleep, however, can support mental wellness.
Of course, many people have great intentions when it comes to getting enough sleep, but still, struggle to fall or stay asleep. Here are some ways you can improve your sleep health:
- Avoid any screen time at least an hour before bed, as these lights can cause brain stimulation.
- Skip stimulants such as caffeine too late in the day. Try not to have tea, coffee, caffeinated sodas, or chocolate later than mid-afternoon.
- Maintain the same bedtime every day. While it can be tempting to stay up late and hit snooze on the weekend, establishing a consistent routine will help your body regulate sleep patterns.
Keep in mind that like exercise and a healthy diet, it may take some time to adopt healthy sleep practices. Over time, however, putting in the effort can pay off in the form of better overall health.
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