Sleep plays one of the most important roles in your physical health. Sleep is involved in healing and the repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
Many healthcare professionals are trying to shed light on the importance of sleep and educate people on how to get better quality sleep. In this blog post, we are focusing on the reasons why sleep is so important and highlighting how much sleep we actually need and strategies to get quality sleep.
6 reasons why sleep is so important:
- Learning and Memory: Sleep helps the brain to learn new information through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who had quality sleep after learning new information performed better on tests.
- Metabolism and Weight: Lack of sleep alters our hormones and affects our appetite. When consistently not getting quality sleep over time, it can cause weight gain because our bodies will begin processing and storing carbohydrates differently. You also will be more attracted to eating carbohydrates and sugar to try and provide your body with energy.
- Safety: When you are experiencing extreme tiredness, you have a greater risk of making mistakes such as getting in car accidents or making medical errors. Making sure to get enough sleep is not only to keep yourself safe but also for your clients and others!
- Mood: Ever notice how impatient and irritable you are when you’re tired? Lack of sleep can make it difficult to have patience, concentrate properly on work or school and cause extreme moodiness.
- Cardiovascular Health: Serious chronic sleep disorders have been linked to increased stress hormone levels, irregular heartbeats and hypertension (Harvard Medical School, 2007).
- Disease: Sleep deprivation can actually alter immune function, making it difficult for the body to fight infection due to fatigue.
How much sleep do we really need?
Based upon the information from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep needs are based upon a person’s age and varies over the course of your life. After the age of 18,they recommend that adults get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2019).
If you are routinely getting a lack of sleep, the sleep loss begins to add up each week which is called a sleep debt. For example, if you lose 2 hours of sleep each night, you’ll have a sleep debt of 14 hours after one week.
Strategies for getting enough sleep:
- Pre-Bedtime Routine: During the hour before you go to sleep, it’s best to avoid exercise and artificial light from TV’s, i-pads, cell phones. The artificial light signals to your brain that it should be awake. According to a Harvard research study, the blue light from these devices suppresses melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifts circadian rhythms by twice as much. (Harvard Medical School, 2012).
- Keep the same schedule: Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Staying up later or sleeping in on the weekend can throw your body off its sleep rhythm and impact the quality of sleep you get each week.
- Eating and Drinking: Avoid any caffeinated beverages at least 8 hours prior to going to sleep. In addition, avoid large heavy meals within a few hours of going to sleep. If you eat directly before going to bed, your blood sugar will be elevated and you may not feel comfortable since you will be trying to digest your food.
- Relaxation Techniques: Each person finds different things relaxing. Find what relaxes you prior to going to sleep (reading a book, listening to calm music, taking a bath, meditating). Try getting your body and mind into a relaxed state so that it’s easier for you to go to sleep quickly.
- Naps: If you find that you are consistently not getting enough sleep per night, consider finding time to take a nap (even if it’s short). Naps can provide a short term boost in alertness and performance. But make sure your nap isn’t upsetting your body’s sleep-wake rhythm. If it does, it will ultimately cause you to have more difficulty going to sleep at night.
Let us know in the thread below what strategies you’re going to use to improve your sleep!
Harvard Medical School. (2007). Sleep and Disease Risk. Retrieved from:
Harvard Medical School, (2012). Blue Light Has a Dark Side. Retrieved from: (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side)
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. (2019). Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. Retrieved from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency)
World Sleep Society (2019). Sleep Resources. Retrieved from: https://worldsleepsociety.org/