Healthy Body

Why Getting Enough Sleep is Important

Exercising regularly and eating a proper diet, along with getting quality sleep, is an important component of overall health. Most adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Sleep restores the body and improves energy levels, helps to maintain a healthy weight, and contributes to heart health.  In fact, while sleeping, the body performs several repairing and maintaining processes that affect nearly every part of the body. As a result, a good night’s sleep, or a lack of sleep, can impact the body both mentally and physically. During sleep, the heart rate slows down, and blood pressure decreases. This means that during sleep, the heart and vascular system can rest and that insufficient sleep is a risk factor for unwanted cardiovascular events because lack of sleep causes blood pressure to remain high for an extended period, increasing the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and heart failure.

Sleep is also believed to help with memory and cognitive thinking. One theory is that sleep is necessary so the brain can grow, reorganize, restructure, and make new neural connections. These connections in the brain help individuals learn new information and form memories during sleep. So, a good night’s sleep may lead to better problem-solving and decision-making skills. And a lack of sleep could have a negative impact on mental processes, causing one’s thinking to slow down. Some studies have found that sleep-deprived people, with five hours of sleep or less per night, perform poorly in activities that require quick responses and attention to multiple tasks, such as driving.  Some people who get inadequate sleep are at higher risk of experiencing mental distress. A chronic lack of sleep can lead to anxiety, depression, and irritability. However, developing a consistent sleep routine often resolves these symptoms.

Developing a relaxing routine the hour before bedtime, such as reading or taking a warm bath, is helpful for a good night’s sleep. Setting electronic devices aside at least 30 minutes before bedtime can also make it easier to fall asleep. Phones, tablets, computers, and other electronics with screens emit blue light, which can disrupt the body’s natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin and make it difficult to fall asleep. It is also helpful to avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bedtime. The use of these items tends to stimulate the body by providing boosts of energy rather than relaxing the body. Many things can make it harder for you to sleep, but daytime exercise can make it easier to fall asleep and is associated with better sleep quality. Exercise may also help individuals fall asleep faster and increase the overall time spent sleeping. People should avoid exercising too late in the day so that their bodies can relax before bedtime.

Although individual preferences may vary, most people sleep best in a dark, quiet, and cool bedroom. Too much light or noise at night can keep people awake or interrupt sleep. An eye mask or blackout curtains can eliminate unwanted light, and earplugs and noise machines can reduce distracting noises. Additionally, a fan can cool the room and serve as a noise machine. Replacing old, worn, or uncomfortable mattresses and pillows with new and supportive ones can help improve sleep quality. The best mattresses and pillows for sleep depend on an individual’s preferred sleeping position and physical needs. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try making changes to your routine to get the sleep you need. For example, get your physical activity in the morning instead of at night and try other bedtime routines like going to bed at the same time every night or listening to a particular type of music. For me personally, I love the Calm app for sleep. However, I can only stay asleep while listening to the sound of rain. For more information, you can visit the Sleep Foundation website.

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