Getting a good night's sleep is important to your health. In fact, not getting enough sleep has been linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies have found that people who get less than five hours of sleep per night are more likely to experience serious health problems and die earlier than those who get more than seven hours of sleep. If you want to get better sleep, you’ll need to change your sleeping habits.
One way to do this is to change the time you go to bed and wake up. For example, if you normally go to bed at 10 p.m., but you want to get a better night’s sleep, you could try going to bed at 9:30 p.m. and waking up at 7 a.m. Another way to improve your sleep is to avoid napping.
Napping may help you feel sleepy, but it actually disrupts your sleep cycle and makes it more difficult for you to fall asleep at a later time. Getting a good night’s sleep requires some practice. It can take a few weeks before you start to notice improvements in your sleep.
It’s not uncommon to hear life coaches and motivational speakers brag about how little sleep they’re getting.
Believe me, the last thing you want is to be like them.
Not only will you always feel fatigued from a lack of sleep, your body may even start to break down.
If you didn’t already know, sleep is an important part of your fitness and health process – just as important as exercise and healthy eating.
So maybe, it’s not that you’re not working out enough, maybe it’s not that your food is too high in calories.
Maybe you’re not achieving your fitness goals because you’re just not getting enough sleep.
Why is Good Sleep so Important?
For so many people, it’s hard to understand why they need sleep so much.
Getting good sleep is not just beneficial, it’s essential for your physical and mental wellbeing.
That’s exactly why getting good sleep is not negotiable.
If you’re still not convinced and you need a little push to get you there, here are some reasons why sleep is important. Good sleep helps us stay healthy and helps us function better. It helps our bodies repair themselves, recover from illness, and protect us from diseases like cancer and heart disease. It helps our brains stay sharp and focused, and it helps our muscles recover from strenuous exercise.
Good Sleep Reduces The Risk Of Heart Disease
Sleep deprivation can have a major impact on your physical and mental health. It can cause you to gain weight, feel depressed, experience more stress, and even affect your memory and concentration. Lack of sleep can also increase the risk of heart disease. In fact, insufficient sleep has been linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease. That’s why it’s important to get a good night’s rest.
But what is the link between sleep and cardiovascular health? Scientists have known for years that people who get less than seven hours of sleep each night are at a greater risk of heart disease. They’ve also found that sleeping too much increases the risk of developing heart disease. So what exactly happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
Can you remember how if felt the last time you were totally burnt out and fatigued? Now imagine putting your heart in this constant state of stress.
Your heart does a great job of making sure your body gets its required amount of oxygen body during the day. Sleep time is necessary for your heart to rest and recover.
Getting good sleep regularly will reduce the pressure and stress in your blood vessels and ultimately improve your overall heart health. (1, 2)
Good Sleep Can Improve Your Daytime Performance And Overall Safety
Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders are serious problems for modern society. The consequences of lack of sleep have been associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, mental health disorders, and even cancer. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are not limited to daytime functioning. In fact, studies show that sleep-deprived people are at increased risk for accidents such as car crashes.
Think of your body like a machine – if it doesn’t get its schedules down times, it will break down in no time.
Getting quality sleep keeps you alert and helps you function optimally during the daytime. (3)
People who do not get enough sleep are usually slower and less productive during the day.
They have slower reaction times and they are usually more prone to mistakes.
Also, skipping hours of sleep can result in what is known as micro-sleeping.
Micro-sleeping generally describes short, unintended bouts of sleep.
Now imagine falling asleep when carrying out crucial and potentially life-threatening tasks.
The last thing you want is to fall asleep while driving or operating a forklift.
What this means is that refusing to get enough sleep is not only harmful to you but to others who interact with you as well.
Good Sleep May Help With Fitness And Weight Management
Recent studies have established a connection between obesity and sleep deficiency. (4)
If you’re going to keep up with your fitness goals, then you need to be getting at least six hours of sleep daily.
People who are sleep deprived are usually slower and unable to complete exercise routines.
Even if they do, because their bodies are not getting enough time to recover and repair itself, they’re very likely to break down and burn out.
Getting enough sleep also helps your body maintain the right amounts of ghrelin (the hormone responsible for the feeling of hunger) and leptin (the hormone responsible for the feeling of satiety). (5)
When you’re sleep deprived, your body tends to produce more ghrelin and less leptin.
Good sleep may help with fitness and weight management. Research has found that people who get less than six hours of sleep per night have a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese, compared with those who get seven or eight hours of sleep. This is because sleep helps regulate appetite and metabolism. In addition, getting enough sleep also improves energy levels, which can lead to better fitness and weight control.
This means that you will feel hungry most of the time and you’ll be forced to eat more food.
Good Sleep May Improve Your Immune System
The human body needs good quality sleep to function at its best. Inadequate sleep has been associated with increased risk of illness and premature death, as well as poor cognitive performance. The immune system is also affected by sleep. When we are asleep, our immune system is suppressed and the number of white blood cells (immune cells) is reduced. However, when we wake up, the immune system recovers and increases the number of white blood cells. A healthy night's sleep helps the body recover from the effects of stress, which may reduce the immune system's ability to fight disease. Studies have shown that getting adequate sleep is associated with lower rates of colds and flu, as well as a lower risk of getting pneumonia.
When you’re active, your immune system is busy defending your body against foreign and harmful substances.
Sleep time is necessary for your immune system to stay healthy. (6)
If you continue to run on overdrive and skip sleep time, you may reduce your immune system’s ability to protect you from harm.
Good Sleep Improves Brain Function And Mental Health
Sleep plays an important role in our lives. It is vital for growth and development, and it helps us to maintain a healthy mind and body. A good night's sleep is also essential for memory, learning and emotional health. Sleep is not just a luxury; it is vital to our wellbeing and performance.
Poor sleep can be caused by a number of factors, such as stress, anxiety, depression, or a medical condition. However, there are also some lifestyle factors that may affect our ability to sleep. These include caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other stimulants. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants, and they can interfere with sleep.
During the day, your brain works constantly to process feelings, store events and preserve memories.
When you get to sleep, that’s when your brain goes to work on these emotions.
If you continue to compromise sleep time, your brain does not get enough time to connect events and hold on to memories. (7)
Sleeping well improves your learning ability. It can improve your decision-making and problem-solving skills as well. (8)
Studies have also established a link between depression and sleep deficiency.
If you make the decision to get enough sleep, you may reduce your risk of depression and death by suicide. (9, 10).
Now that we know why sleep is important, it’s time to get to work on the how.
3 Tips to Get Better Sleep
Breaking out of bad habits is no mean feat, we get that. But with a little help and friendly advice, we know you can do it.
If you’re looking for some tips on how to sleep better, you can start with any of these:
1. Keep Your Sleep Cycle Consistent
If you didn’t already know, your body is a machine – it loves its routines.
Your body has an internal clock (circadian rhythms) that regulates its work and rest periods.
This involves your brain releasing certain chemicals that produce the strong feelings of sleep especially at night time. (11)
Planning your sleep time to coincide with your body’s internal clock optimize and improve your quality of sleep. (12)
When choosing the time to go to bed and wake up, choose the time of night you usually feel most tired.
This way, you don’t end up spending most of your bedtime tossing and turning.
If you’re getting good sleep, you’ll find that you rarely need alarm clocks.
Your body will end its sleep cycle at about the same you would normally wake up.
If you find yourself constantly relying on alarm clocks, you may have to move up your bedtime.
2. Avoid Long Daytime Naps
Can you remember anytime you took too many naps during the day? Or a long nap?
How easy was it for you to go to bed at night?
Yeah, I thought so too.
Although short power naps may be beneficial, taking long irregular naps will do you more harm than good.
Taking long naps during the day may interfere with your internal clock and make it harder for you to get some sleep at night. (13)
3. Increase Your Exposure To Bright Light During The Day
Getting a healthy amount of daylight exposure keeps your body’s internal clock going.
It can improve your energy during the day which will in turn improve your quality of sleep at night time. (14).
If it’s not practical for you to get exposure to natural light during the day, you can always improvise with white light bulbs.
In addition to some of the tips above, you can also try reducing caffeine intake in the evening, increasing physical activity, and if you exhaust all of these and you see no improvement, you might want to make an appointment with your doctor.
Remember, there’s no strength or pride in depriving yourself of good sleep.
In fact, good sleep may be just as important as food and exercise for your physical and mental wellbeing.