The Importance of Sleep

Woman SleepingYour sleeping habits affect you in more ways than you may know. Getting adequate sleep plays a critical role in a person’s health, happiness, and overall functioning. It enhances athletic performance, strengthens the immune system, and improves cognition, concentration, and productivity. However, not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, can be significantly detrimental to both physical and mental health.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports that sleep deprivation is associated with multiple physical health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. It negatively impacts mood and mental health which can lead to irritability, depression, and anxiety. Inadequate sleep also poses risks of serious harm since drowsiness can lead to car accidents, impaired hand-eye coordination, and ‘microsleeps’ which are ‘very brief episodes of sleep while being awake.’

Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three American adults (108 million people) are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. In addition to that, a 2018 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that only 10% of people prioritize sleep over other aspects of daily life, such as work, fitness, and hobbies. Interestingly enough, 65% of them said they believe sleep contributes to next day effectiveness, so it’s likely they understand the relationship between the two but have trouble implementing actual change.

If you want to improve the quality of your sleep, you can start by following these simple tips:

• Put down the electronics before bed – blue light emitted from phone and TV screens delays the release of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep
• Cut out caffeine – caffeine is a stimulant and it can take up to six hours for a single half of overall daily caffeine intake to be eliminated
• Limit your food intake – as the saying goes, timing is everything and eating before bed can reduce sleep quality and cause you to take longer to fall asleep
• Exercise – exercise has been proven to reduce insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and the symptoms of sleep apnea; just refrain from exercising within six hours before going to bed
• Stay hydrated – even mild dehydration can affect the quality of your sleep by causing cramps and drying out your mouth and nasal passages which can cause you to snore
• Lower the temperature – the body decreases its temperature to initiate sleep; reducing the room temperature to somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit can aid this process
• Avoid alcohol – alcohol disrupts the circadian rhythm which is essentially the body’s biological clock; it suppresses melatonin and prevents the body from synchronizing its sleep cycle
• Take care of your mental health – people with mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, find it more difficult to get to sleep at night; addressing those issues via medication, therapy, or other relaxation techniques can reduce insomnia

Although we live in a world where everyone is always “on,” we shouldn’t neglect our health because of it. Try adhering to a new sleep schedule for a week and observe the changes in your functioning and productivity – both at work and at home. The increased health benefits will certainly be worth it!