We spend an incredible number of our waking hours trying to improve our work, our relationships, our free time, and other aspects of our lives, but we often spend very little time trying to improve our sleep. Given that many of us spend a quarter to a third of our day sleeping, it’s not to be taken for granted. Why exactly is it important to get enough sleep?
Sleep Restores and Recharges Us
Sleep is your body’s opportunity to regenerate after the day’s stressors and activities.
You typically go through 4 to 5 sleep cycles when you sleep that each consists of light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. As these cycles occur, they repair cells in the brain and build new neural pathways to help you solidify memories and learn new information. Toxic elements that hinder the brain’s health and performance are also removed during this time.
What Happens to the Body With a Lack of Sleep
When you don’t sleep well for a night or two, you’re probably aware of the negative impact it can have. You’re tired and don’t feel alert, and you may have memory lapses and forget things you’d otherwise remember. Insufficient sleep may also cause irritability, trouble concentrating, and poor decision-making.
The effects of chronic sleep deprivation, where you don’t sleep well on a regular basis, are much more serious. Chronic sleep problems can lead to cardiovascular disease, a compromised immune system, type-2 diabetes, obesity, impaired performance and mental health, and other long-term health issues.
How to Get Enough Sleep
On average, you need 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night for your sleep cycles to adequately perform the cleansing and regrowth of your brain to keep it healthy.
Obtaining quality sleep is key. Sleep can be disrupted by caffeine, alcohol, or certain medications. Blue light from electronics like cell phones, TVs, computers, and tablets can also prevent you from falling asleep. And stress or worry may cause anxiety that affects your sleep quality.
To minimize the effects of these negative sleep influences, take the following actions:
Create a dark, quiet, electronic-free environment in your bedroom
Keep a routine where you go to bed and get up each morning at the same time
Stop your use of electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime
Avoid caffeine late in the day and evening
Don’t eat a large meal close to bedtime
Limit yourself to 1 alcoholic drink a day or less
If you need to take a nap during the day, make it 20 minutes or less and do it earlier in the day rather than later
Keep a pad of paper and pen next to your bed and write down any worries, concerns, or to-dos that may be keeping you awake
With a little practice and discipline, you can improve your sleep and ultimately improve your quality of life!