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The Importance of Sleep for Healthy Living

Few things in life are as vital to our health and well-being as sleep. Yet, our busy lives often prevent us from committing to an ideal sleep routine. Good sleep improves brain performance and mood whereas a lack of sleep can increase the risk of certain diseases and disorders, including heart disease, obesity and dementia. 

Getting a healthy amount of sleep is not as straightforward as simply sleeping for longer. There’s a lot to consider when trying to develop better sleep habits with the goal of living a healthier life. 

What is “Good Sleep”?

Even if you sleep eight to twelve hours a night, you might not be benefiting as much as you think. Good sleep can be broken down into these three components:

  • The number of hours you sleep a day
  •  The quality of the sleep
  • Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule

Whatever your work schedule or no matter how active your social life might be, you should strive to achieve these three components. You should also try to get more sleep than usual when you’re sick, feeling stressed or dealing with challenging times. 

Give Your Brain the Rest It Needs

Sleeping isn’t just a way to give your body a much-needed rest after a long day. It’s also when your brain prepares to perform essential functions that contribute to learning and remembering. The brain also uses sleep to drain itself of toxins—some of which are believed to be the proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Many of our vital systems, including our immune system, use sleep to repair their processes. If you don’t get enough sleep, these processes cannot be completed. There are few gifts you can give your brain and body that would have a more positive result than sleep.

What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

Sleep deficiency (a broad concept that includes sleep deprivation, not sleeping well or sleeping at the wrong time of the day) can cause a slew of health problems that range in severity. It is linked to several chronic health issues such as kidney disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, obesity, depression and a greater likelihood of injury. Furthermore, a lack of sleep can make concentrating more difficult, affect your memory and lead to weight gain. 

There are other vital functions that require you to enter a specific state of a sleep cycle. For instance, experts believe that during the stage of deep sleep, the pituitary gland releases a growth hormone that stimulates muscle repair and tissue growth. Not sleeping enough can impede your body’s ability to perform these repairs, which are designed to ensure your health.

There is a misguided notion that you can learn to cope with little sleep. However, experts believe that not getting enough sleep will result in negative side effects while also making you feel unrested and less refreshed. 

Tips for Getting More and Better Sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some tips for getting better sleep:

  • Commit to a consistent sleep routine. This means going to bed around the same time every night and waking up around the same time every day.
  •  Develop a proper sleep environment. A good sleep environment includes a dark room, little to no noise and a comfortable temperature.
  •  Ignore or even turn off all devices like your TV, smartphone or computer.
  •  Don’t eat a large meal or ingest caffeine or alcohol before you go to bed.
  • Try to get some exercise or be physically active throughout the day.

Adjusting our sleep routines can be challenging. It can involve making some drastic lifestyle changes such as going out less, not falling asleep while watching TV or drinking less coffee throughout the day. That said, the payoff is worth it as your health is sure to improve by adjusting to more positive sleeping habits.

Don’t Sleep on Improving Your Health

 A healthier diet, daily exercise, limiting alcohol consumption—there are many ways to improve your health. At the top of this list, though, should be having a more positive sleep routine. Not only will your mood be improved, but you will be giving your brain and body the chance it needs to repair itself while reducing the risk of certain diseases and conditions.

The benefits of getting a higher quantity and quality of sleep are immense and there’s no time like the present to commit yourself. The sooner you start, the sooner you will see positive results.    

Rob Shapiro | Contributing Writer

Spring 2024

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