Sleep is like sex: We all want more, but we aren’t getting it. According to the Center for Disease Control, studies show that one in three adults in the U.S. are not getting enough sleep.
Poor sleeping habits can result in serious health consequences, including mood swings, weight gain, and an increased risk for certain diseases. The importance of sleep cannot be understated; getting the right amount of sleep can vastly improve your day-to-day lifestyle while supporting long-term wellness.
Importance of Sleep for Optimum Health
Sleep time is recovery time, and I’m not just talking about your muscles after a workout, although sleep helps that as well.
Brain Detox: Your body collects and produces a lot of waste during the day. During sleep, your brain tosses out the bio-garbage, which is critical for the health of your brain. Sleep promotes cell repair and growth while decreasing the risk for cognitive-based diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Growth Hormone Release: Although the term is synonymous with the bodybuilding circuit, growth hormones are a natural and normal part of human development and recovery. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t producing and releasing enough growth hormone, which might negatively impact your immune system, recovery rate, and weight management. Speaking of which…
Healthy Weight Management: Sleep helps to regulate hormones. Two of those hormones are leptin and ghrelin. When you aren’t sleeping well, you have low levels of leptin and high levels of ghrelin, which can trigger an increased appetite and, as a result, a higher risk for weight gain. Scientific studies have confirmed that not getting enough sleep contributes to obesity.
Energy and Productivity: Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night can increase your daily energy levels, which improves productivity in work, study, errands, or simply being present with friends and family.
Better Memory: Trying to learn a new language? Need to remember those notes for your business presentation? Want to learn to play your favorite song on the guitar? You need to sleep. Studies show that the importance of sleep can be seen in the benefit of improved memory formation; sleep helps your brain cement knowledge and skills. This results in faster and more accurate memory recall.
Supports Mood: We’ve all had sleepless nights and know only too well how a lack of sleep results in negative feelings, mood swings, and apathy. Getting enough sleep each night can help rid you of that crankiness and promote a positive mood.
Anti-Inflammatory: Many of the top villains of the disease world, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes all have one thing in common: inflammation. Getting your nightly seven to eight hours in dreamland has been scientifically shown to reduce inflammation; thereby decreasing your risk for disease.
Better Travel: How can you appreciate the vastness of the Grand Canyon or the monuments of Easter Island if you only slept a few hours the night before? Sleeping well during your travels might improve your travel experiences, as you’ll be more alert and focused. You’ll also be able to remember the trip with greater clarity. No selfies needed.
Can’t I Make Up Sleep on Weekends?
Sorry, no can do. You can’t run on four hours of sleep each night during the week, then snooze until one in the afternoon on Saturday to catch up and reap same benefits of regular, nightly sleep.
The Harvard Medical School demonstrated the importance of sleep by studying two groups: Group A got five to six hours of sleep during the week, then slept in on the weekend. Group B got a steady 8 hours of sleep every night. Two weeks later, both groups were tested for reaction times, focus, and alertness. Group A’s performance was worse than if they had pulled an all-nighter.
How Much Sleep Should I Get?
Although a rare genetic gift allows a small fraction of the world’s population to function on five hours of sleep, studies suggest that seven to eight hours of sleep each night is still the gold standard for most of us.
If sleeping seven hours seems impossible to you, there are a variety of easy, effective, and proven ways to improve sleep that you can do each night.
What About Naps?
Sometimes getting a solid eight hours of sleep isn’t possible. A short-term solution could be napping. While napping does not make up for missed sleep, it can shake off fatigue, increase focus, and boost productivity. If you are going to nap during the day, be sure to set an alarm for either thirty or ninety minutes. Anything in between this and you may find yourself more tired and disoriented because you woke up during a deep sleep or R.E.M. cycle.
Do You Get Enough Sleep?
How much sleep do you get each night? What do you do to ensure you fall asleep and stay asleep? Which benefits of sleep have you experienced when you’re regularly getting enough sleep? Let me know in the comments below.