SLEEP: Benefits and Tips To Getting Better Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of maintaining good health, and there are numerous benefits to consistently getting a full night’s rest. Here are 10 health benefits of sleep:
Benefits of sleep
1. Improved mood: Sleep restores the body and improves energy levels, which can have a positive impact on an individual’s mood. In contrast, people who get inadequate sleep are at higher risk of experiencing mental distress, anxiety, depression, and irritability.
2. Healthy heart: Quality sleep promotes cardiac health by slowing down heart rate and decreasing blood pressure, allowing the heart and vascular system to rest. Insufficient sleep is a risk factor for unwanted cardiovascular events and increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and heart failure.
3. Regulated blood sugar: Sleep impacts the body’s relationship with the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar, or glucose, levels. Adults who get less than seven hours of sleep at night are at increased risk for Type 2 diabetes.
4. Improved mental function: Sleep is believed to help with memory and cognitive thinking, allowing the brain to grow, reorganize, restructure, and make new neural connections. Quality sleep leads to improved concentration and better problem-solving and decision-making skills.
5. Restored immune system: During sleep, the body produces growth hormones necessary for development and repair of tissues and cells, as well as cytokines that support the immune system in fighting infections.
6. Stress relief: Getting appropriate sleep each night can help manage stress and reduce anxiety, depression, and other mental health strains related to stress.
7. Athletic performance: Sleep is a key element of athletic recovery, as it allows the body to repair and recover from physical exertion, improving athletic performance.
8. Weight control: Quality sleep is linked to better weight management, as sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of obesity.
9. Lower risk of accidents: Sleep deprivation is associated with a higher risk of accidents, particularly in activities that require quick responses and attention to multiple tasks, such as driving.
10. Improved overall health: Like eating nutritious food, drinking water, and exercising regularly, getting quality sleep is an important component of overall health, impacting nearly every part of the body. Consistently getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night can help promote optimal health and well-being.
Tips for Getting Better Sleep
To get better sleep, and the many health benefits that come along with it, we take a look at the healthy practices around sleep, known as sleep hygiene. A number of lifestyle adjustments can help improve sleep quality.
1. Create a Consistent Sleep Schedule
A regular sleep and wake routine helps the body keep a consistent internal clock. Sleep experts recommend going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, including weekends.
Some adults like to nap during the day to avoid sleepiness. Keeping naps to about 20 minutes lessens fatigue without impacting sleep schedules. Naps that are too long can reduce alertness and defeat the purpose of napping. Individuals who choose to nap should avoid napping too late in the afternoon so that they can still fall asleep at their usual bedtime.
2. Make a Quality Sleep Environment
Although individual preferences may vary, most people sleep best in a dark, quiet, and cool bedroom. Too much light or noise at night can keep people awake or interrupt sleep. An eye mask or blackout curtains can eliminate unwanted light, and earplugs and noise machines can reduce distracting noises. Additionally, a fan can cool the room and serve as a noise machine.
Replacing old, worn, or uncomfortable mattresses and pillows with new and supportive ones can help improve sleep quality. The best mattresses and pillows for sleep depend on an individual’s preferred sleep positions and physical needs.
3. Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol Before
Caffeine is a stimulant that provides a boost of energy and alertness. When taken in the afternoon or evening, caffeine can make it difficult to fall asleep at night. The use of nicotine, found in cigarettes, in the evening is associated with more time spent awake at night. While some people drink alcohol before bedtime intending to get to sleep faster, alcohol is associated with lighter, lower quality sleep.
4. Exercise During the Day
Daytime exercise can make it easier to fall, and daily exercise is associated with better sleep quality. Exercise may also help individuals fall asleep faster and increase the overall time spent sleeping. It can be beneficial to exercise outside, as sunlight exposure during the day also improves sleep. People should avoid exercising too late in the day so that their bodies can relax before bedtime.
5. Avoid Screens Before Bedtime
Setting electronic devices aside at least 30 minutes before bedtime can make it easier to fall asleep. Phones, tablets, computers, and other electronics with screens emit blue light, which can disrupt the body’s natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Instead, sleep experts advise developing a relaxing routine in the hour before bedtime. During this period of winding down, choose a restful activity such as reading or taking a warm bath.
Talking to a Doctor About Sleep
Those concerned about their sleep quality should consult with a health care provider. It may be helpful to keep a sleep diary to record sleep experiences and other symptoms. Discussing these symptoms with a doctor can identify potential causes for insufficient or interrupted sleep. Doctors can also talk through personalized strategies for improving sleep and refer individuals for additional testing as necessary.