There’s nothing quite like a good night’s sleep. We wake up refreshed, recharged, and ready to take on the day. But for some people, getting a decent night's rest can seem like a herculean effort. With the stresses of everyday life, obligations in the evening, young children at home, and countless screen-time distractions, getting those eight hours sometimes feels like a luxury or special occurrence. Unfortunately, science suggests that a full night's sleep is no longer a "nice to have" but something that we need to prioritize. New research and studies are shedding light on how important sleep is for our mental and physical well-being. Here are some reasons why it is so important.
It is great for your immune system.
Getting adequate sleep is an immune booster. Studies have shown that slept less than seven hours per night were three times more likely to be stricken with a common cold than those that go eight hours or more. It’s a natural way to recharge our bodies, so we don’t get burnt out or run down. Getting those precious eight hours can be tough, so it's a good idea to watch your caffeine intake, cut back on screen-time, and even hit that extra dose of CBD before bed for a night of deep, sound sleep.
It can help keep the weight off.
It seems that we’re constantly worrying about eating a nutritious diet and exercising enough to stay in shape without paying much attention to sleep. It turns out that when it comes to our health and weight, sleep is equally-important as diet and exercise, so it’s time we took notice. When we are sleep deprived, the hormones that control our appetites become out of whack. With this imbalance, it’s much harder for us to resist the temptation of unhealthy and high-calorie foods. Couple that with the fact that when you’re tired, you are less likely to want to exercise, and it's a recipe for disaster. Eight hours of sleep isn’t the first thing we think about when it comes to weight loss, but it turns out that it's highly important.
Lack of sleep can be a factor in depression.
Researchers have been studying the link between sleep and depression for years, and it’s clear that there is a direct correlation between lack of sleep and depression. Studies have shown that close to 90% of people with depression have reported poor sleep habits. People who suffer from insomnia and sleep apnea also reported much higher rates of depression than those without sleep disorders. One study even went as far as examining suicide over ten years and found that insufficient sleep was a contributing factor in many of the deaths.
It amplifies our concentration and productivity.
Sleep sharpens our minds. When we are adequately rested, our bodies firing on all cylinders providing optimal concentration, productivity, and memory, this can be especially important for children. One study showed that a child’s sleep pattern directly affected their behavioral and academic performance. Without proper sleep, our concentration and attention abilities drastically decline. Our reaction time slows down, and we don’t respond well to the environmental signals around us. Without proper sleep, we shouldn’t even be operating a motor vehicle.
"For example, going without sleep for 48 hours impairs cognitive abilities to the same degree as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1%, above the legal limit for driving in every state." - Dr. Epstein, editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Improving Sleep.
It’s important for our muscles and strength.
Whether you’re a serious athlete or not, sleep is important for your physical strength. When we sleep, human growth hormone is released, which repairs our muscles and keeps us strong. If we aren’t getting eight hours of sleep, this process is interrupted, hindering our physical health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep, while athletes can be more productive with up to a whopping ten hours of sleep.
Now that we know how important sleep is, what can we do to make sure we get the proper amount? Every day contains new challenges, and it can be hard to be consistent without nighttime slumber. We can do a few things during the day and before bed to give us the best chance at copping those precious zzzs. It’s a good idea to establish a regular bedtime and stick to it. It’s fairly easy to do this during the week, but weekends can be tougher as we tend to want to stay up later. Sticking to a schedule will go a long way in regulating your sleep time. Other sleep aids include limiting your screen time (especially a couple of hours before bed), exercising during the day to tire yourself out, avoid caffeine in the afternoon, and make sure you have a comfortable temperature and sleep environment. We all love to sleep, but now it’s time to start taking it a little more seriously.
In conclusion, rather than 8 hours continuing to be hailed as the golden rule for sleep, it seems best to consider it as more of a guideline. In its place, I propose a new golden sleep rule accounting for age and hours of sleep needed by an individual. It’s also important to stick to a 10:00-10:30pm bedtime. This makes for a far more comprehensive, personalized and likely way to achieve greater sleep success and well-being.
Alaska Sleep Clinic is the most comprehensive sleep lab in Alaska. Call us today for a FREE sleep assessment.