How is your sleep? Importance of sleep
I think we can all agree that there is nothing better than a good night’s sleep. It only takes one bad night’s sleep to remind us how much our bodies and minds depend on it. When we are tired, we are simply not ourselves- emotionally, physically and mentally. As the Irish Proverb goes, “Go to bed and you’ll feel better tomorrow” is the human version of “Did you try turning it off and on again?”.
Sometimes a good laugh followed by a long sleep can be the best cures for anything.
The importance of sleep
Sleep is just as important for your physical and mental health as eating healthily and exercising.
Here are 10 reasons why good sleep is important.
- Poor sleep is linked to higher body weight. In fact, in one extensive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to develop obesity, respectively. Two reasons for this include hormones and the lack of motivation to exercise.
- Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories. Poor sleep affects hormones that regulate appetite. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don’t.
- Good sleep can improve concentration and productivity. Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. Poor sleep has been shown to impair brain function. One study showed that this can be to a similar degree as alcohol intoxication.
- Good sleep can maximize athletic and physical performance. Longer sleep has been shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental well-being.
- According to studies, poor sleepers, or sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night, have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Poor sleep habits are also strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar and type 2 diabetes in the general population.
- Mental health issues, such as depression and suicide, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders.
- Sleep improves your immune function.
- Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation and cell damage.
- Sleep affects emotions negatively and hinders your ability to interact socially. Researchers believe that poor sleep affects your ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.
Sleep, good quality sleep, is a much-needed pillar of health: both mentally and physically.
How much sleep do we need?
Sleep needs vary from person to person, depending on their age. As a person ages, they typically require less sleep to function properly.
The average recommendations are as follows:
New-borns (0–3 months): 14–17 hours
Infants (4–12 months): 12–16 hours
Toddler (1–2 years): 11–14 hours
Preschool (3–5 years): 10–13 hours
School age (6–12 years): 9–12 hours
Teen (13–18 years): 8–10 hours
Adult (18–60 years): 7-plus hours
Adult (61–64 years): 7–9 hours
Adult (65+ years): 7–8 hours
Some sleep specialists, however, will recommend that what is more important is how many sleep cycles we have in a night. This suggests that the type of sleep we get is more important than the hours of sleep we get.
According to Alaska Sleep, ‘When we sleep, our body goes through five specific stages as noted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Each stage accumulates to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and then restarts, completing one cycle. The first stage through to REM takes about 90 minutes to complete, and adults typically need to complete at least four or five sleep cycles per night, or 6 to 9 total hours of sleep.’
This means that an adult would need to complete 4-5 sleep cycles in their entirety to feel fully rested. And although this means about 6 to 9 hours of sleep; if sleep is disturbed or of a poor quality, 6 to 9 hours of sleep doesn’t always mean you have successfully completed 4-5 seep cycles.
The importance of a sleep routine
Like our minds thrive off routine, so do our bodies. Keeping a regular sleep schedule—even on weekends—maintains the timing of the body’s internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily. Follow a set bedtime and wake-up time.
You may even want to start using your sleep cycle as an alarm clock. Since sleep cycles last for 90 minutes, set your morning alarm to wake you up after the last completed cycle. For example, if you’re going to bed at 10:30PM and need to wake up at 6:30AM, set your alarm clock to 6AM. instead to account for 90-minute sleep cycle intervals. Even though you lose 30 minutes of sleep, you should find your body will feel more rested having wakened after completing REM sleep.
This sleep-wake cycle is dictated by our circadian rhythm. This is an internal biological clock that regulates various body processes over a 24-hour period. Light, time, and melatonin are the main factors that impact the circadian rhythm. Therefore, inconsistent bedtimes and wake-times may disrupt one’s circadian rhythm and therefore their sleep cycles and quality of sleep. In fact, your sleep routine begins the moment you wake-up.
Your body will learn when it is time to go to sleep and when it is time to wake up: making both these processes a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Tips for a better night’s rest – importance of sleep
If you find that you are waking in the middle of the night, still not feeling rested after an adequate number of hours of sleep or are struggling to fall (and stay) asleep, you may want to try some of the tips below.
-Try avoiding sleeping in when you have had enough sleep.
-Spend more time outside and be more active during the day. Maintain a healthy balance of nutrition and exercise.
-Reduce stress through exercise, therapy, journaling, or other means.
-Engage in relaxing activities near bedtime.
-Avoid caffeine before bedtime. Stimulating the brain before sleep can cause insomnia.
– Avoid smoking. Smokers have a lower rate of REM sleep and often wake up after 3 to 4 hours of sleep due to nicotine withdrawal.
– Avoid alcohol. Consuming an alcoholic beverage before bed keeps sleepers in the lighter stages of sleep.
– Create a comfortable (cool, quiet, comfortable, free if interruptions and dark) sleep environment.
– Avoid blue light (screen time) too close to bedtime.
– Have a 30- to 60-minute “wind-down” period before sleep.
It may be impossible to adapt and maintain all these suggestions into your lifestyle. Make your sleep journey personal to you. Identify the factors that are most disruptive to your own sleep and then focus on altering behaviours and patterns to overcome these factors. Schedule a consistent bed-wake time and develop a bedtime routine that you can execute nightly. From there, it’s a matter of practicing the routine, identifying what works and doesn’t work, and adjusting until you fall into a consistent routine.
If you are unsure about how to identify what these may be for you, speaking to a sleep specialist may help. You may also want to complete our questionnaire.
It is also important to speak to your doctor should your sleep troubles persist as there may be an underlying condition that is contributing to the problem.
Sleep is a vital, often neglected, component of every person’s overall health and well-being. Sleep is important because it enables the body to repair and be fit and ready for another day.
We need to value the importance of sleep.