There are few better feelings than letting your head hit the pillow at the end of a long day. But getting a good night's sleep doesn't just feel good—it's good for you, too. The amount and quality of sleep you get has a big effect on your overall health. You should consider sleep as important to your health as diet and exercise.
Lack of sleep has been linked to such things as heart disease, obesity, depression and more. Research has shown that workers who sleep too little take more sick days and have poor work habits. Those who suffer from insomnia and other sleep issues are also more likely to miss work in general. And sleeping too much can be just as detrimental as not sleeping enough.
So what's the sleeping sweet spot? Healthy adults should get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. If you're a new parent or under a lot of stress, a good night's sleep might seem like a dream. But if you have all the facts, taking a few simple steps can help you rest easier.
The benefits of sleep
Studies show that getting the right amount of sleep helps protect your mind and body and improves your health and quality of life. There's a lot going on in your head while you sleep. Your brain is processing information and preparing for the next day, forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.
Good sleep can make you smarter and more productive, to an extent. It improves learning, enhances your problem-solving skills, sharpens your attention, improves your decision-making skills and boosts your creativity. All of these skills are the first things to take a hit when you're not sleeping well or enough. Even if you lose one or two hours of sleep over the course of a couple of days, your mind and body will take the toll.
While you're sleeping, your body heals itself by repairing bodily tissues and heart and blood vessels. Your immune system also relies heavily on sleep to stay strong. If you lose sleep, your immune system weakens and you become more susceptible to common illnesses and infections.
How to get better sleep
- Stick to a sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Set a bedtime routine that gives your mind and body time to relax and unwind before bed. This reinforces a sleep-wake schedule for your body and helps you sleep better.
- Don't eat or drink right before bed. An upset stomach and midnight trips to the bathroom will disrupt your sleep.
- Turn off the TV and put your cell phone away. Some research shows that screen time right before bed wakes your brain up, making it harder to fall asleep and more likely that you won't sleep deeply.
- Make your bedroom relaxing. A cozy sleeping environment will encourage the rest your mind and body need. Try blackout curtains, a sound machine or a fan to create your ideal sleeping environment.
- No napping. Any nap longer than 30 minutes during the day can interfere with your sleep at night.
- Exercise! Wearing your body out regularly promotes healthy sleep.
- Handle your stress appropriately. Give your brain a break by consciously managing stress during the day. Start by organizing, prioritizing and setting goals for your life. Consider journaling, and make sure to spend time with friends and family.
Take the next step
If none of the above suggestions help, contact your physician. He or she might recommend ways to help you get your sleep schedule on track.
Posted: 5/14/2015 by
Filed under: Better, Lifestyle, Sleep, Wellness