Sleep is essential for life. It’s as simple as that.
But our go-go-go lifestyles and the temptations of technology often keep us from surrendering to sleep even when our bodies and brains beg for it. This imbalance of sleep and wakefulness has a price to pay, both short and long-term, and the consequences are evident in the current global epidemic of sleep deficiency.
When you don’t get enough sleep for even one night, you wake up groggy, craving coffee and likely have trouble focusing throughout the day. But when you multiply this night after night, year after year, the toll is cumulative, increasing your risks for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, depression, infections, obesity, early onset dementia, and even early death.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. While we should acknowledge the risks of insufficient sleep and use them as a catalyst to improve our sleep, let’s focus on the long-term benefits of good sleep which are much more encouraging.
While we can’t change the sleep of our past, we can recognize that the long-term benefits of sleep begin for each of us TODAY. The sleep you get tonight and over time will serve as an integral indicator of your overall health, physical and mental.
Before providing the benefits of good sleep, let’s define what constitutes good sleep. Scientists and sleep medical/clinical experts recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Recognizing that sleep quality is also critical in addition to sleep quantity, it is important to address whether you have a sleep disorder and/or poor sleep habits. If you suspect you may have a sleep disorder, be sure to see your physician or a sleep specialist.
Here are some of the benefits of good sleep that impact your health and well-being, both short and long term:
- Good sleep improves your immune system function, a benefit particularly relevant and critical today. Sufficient sleep offers protection from infections with a more functional immune system and heightened efficiency and you are even less likely to get the common cold.
- During sleep, our brain has a cleaning system, the glymphatic system, which enables our brains to eliminate toxins. When we chronically get insufficient sleep, our brain becomes like a dirty kitchen, increasing our risk for early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Sleep helps to “maintain many of our vital functions. One of the most important of these functions may be to provide cells and tissues with the opportunity to recover from the wear and tear of daily life. Major restorative functions in the body such as tissue repair, muscle growth, and protein synthesis occur almost exclusively during sleep.”
- Sleep is integrally woven into our appetites. In fact, insufficient sleep can lead to weight gain. Sleep duration is related to the hormones that regulate hunger. People who get sufficient sleep tend to eat fewer calories. Furthermore, when you are tired, you are less likely to get adequate exercise thereby risking weight gain.
And for your waking hours, sufficient sleep has these benefits:
- Getting a good night’s sleep enhances our ability to absorb new information we acquire when we are awake and during sleep, we then consolidate what we learn into our memory.
- When you get good sleep, you are more productive at work and your ability to learn, problem solve, and make decisions are supported.
- Sleep is integrally woven into our appetites. In fact, insufficient sleep can lead to weight gain. People who get sufficient sleep tend to eat fewer calories and maintain a healthy weight.
- Good sleep supports your social skills and healthy interaction with family, friends, and colleagues. In fact, one study found that people who get insufficient sleep have trouble recognizing facial expressions of anger or happiness in others.
How you sleep directly impacts your health, both mental and physical, as well as how well you function during your waking hours. You will spend about one third of your life sleeping which will directly impact the quality of your life for the other two thirds when you want to be at your best. The benefits of good sleep merit ensuring that you get the best sleep possible, tonight and every night to come.
Important Note: There are many sleep disorders that require a medical diagnosis and treatment, so if you are at all concerned, please seek advice from a medical professional.
THE SLEEP BETTER NATURALLY SERIES is sponsored by Rhinomed, a medical technology company dedicated to improving sleep through better breathing. Rhinomed is the maker of Mute, to aid snoring, enhance nasal breathing, and help you fall asleep and stay asleep naturally.