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You may be wondering why it is important to get enough sleep. Your body needs to get enough rest daily. Sleep is just as important to humans as the air that we breathe. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. Getting inadequate sleep over time can raise your risk for chronic (long-term) health problems.
Medically you are required to sleep for at least 7 hours every night. Anything short of that is considered short sleep and means you are being deprived of getting enough sleep.
In this post, you’ll be learning reasons why sleep is important. If you’ve been struggling to sleep, you’ll also learn why you can’t get enough sleep.
What is sleep?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, sleep is a condition of body and mind that typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the eyes are closed, the postural muscles relaxed, the activity of the brain altered, and consciousness of the surroundings practically suspended.
Wikipedia also defines sleep as a state of reduced mental and physical activity, in which consciousness is altered, and sensory activity is inhibited to a certain extent. During sleep, there is a decrease in muscle activity, and interactions with the surrounding environment are significantly reduced.
It is important to get enough sleep and get enough rest after daily activities.
Main reasons for sleep
- Get sick less often – Lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.So, your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases. Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. (Mayo Clinic)
- Stay at a healthy weight – Not getting enough sleep has been repeatedly linked to a higher body mass index (BMI) and weight gain. Greater waist circumference and accumulation of belly fat have also been linked to not getting enough rest or sleep at night. Sleep deprivation leads to significant increases in hunger, food cravings, portion sizes, chocolate and fat intakes which results to weight gain. When you sleep early, you will prevent the arousal of temptations to indulge in late night snacking. Of course you can’t snack when you’re sleeping. Ensure you do not eat heavily 2 – 3 hours before sleeping as it may reduce your quality of sleep. If you need to eat something within this time, it is wise to take something light and high in protein e.g. Greek yoghurt.
- Reduce stress and improve your mood – Sleep is a powerful stress reducer. Following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making. You are a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress when you’re well-rested. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy and diminishes mental clarity.You might find that you can’t concentrate as easily without sleep. Research shows that lack of sleep makes you more emotionally reactive, more impulsive, and more sensitive to negative stimuli. These sleep-driven cognitive impairments can give rise to stress in any number of ways, from creating difficulty in relationships to causing problems with job performance.
- Get along better with people – Having less sleep makes one irritable. It also makes a person to be aggressive which can affect how they relate with others. Getting good sleep enables a person to empathise with others. A study showed that when we sleep poorly, the parts of our brain devoted to emotional empathy don’t function as well. Sleeping well also helps you have the confidence and drive to associate with others. Sleep deprivation makes a person grumpy which in turn makes them feel the need to stay away from people.
Ways to get enough rest by sleeping better
- Increased exposure to sunlight – Getting exposure to sunlight in the morning can help you sleep at night because it helps reset your body’s inner sleep clock. Light is an important cue for your body’s sleep cycle. The light you are exposed to during the day helps your body figure out when it’s time to go to bed and when it’s time to wake up. Natural sunlight is the most potent form of light therapy, but light boxes that emit artificial light can be helpful alternatives for those unable to get outside in direct sunlight each morning.
- Reduce exposure to blue light – Blue light suppresses the body’s release of melatonin which is the hormone responsible for making us feel drowsy. Blue light is found to immediately” improve alertness, productivity, and performance. The main source of blue light is sunlight. It is also emitted by laptops and computer monitors, smartphones, tablets, TV, fluorescent and CFL bulbs. Sunlight is obviously not emitted at night. It is wisdom to reduce your exposure to the other sources of blue light before going to bed so you can get enough rest. Amber-tinted glasses offer the easiest and most effective way to avoid blue light exposure at night. These glasses effectively block all blue light. Thus, your brain doesn’t get the signal that it’s supposed to stay awake.
- Have and maintain a sleep schedule – Keeping a regular sleep schedule even on weekends maintains the timing of the body’s internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily. You need to know the appropriate sleep schedule for your age group.
- Organise your environment – Studies have shown people sleep better when their bedroom has lights turned off. There should also be no noise levels, suitable temperature(65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit) and bed comfort. These also help to improve how you feel when you wake up. To get enough rest avoid light at least 30 minutes before sleeping.
- Take a relaxing shower – Scientists say that having a warm bath aids the natural temperature regulation process. This helps to improve the quality sleep. It can also help to reduce blood pressure. Take a 10- to 15-minute, warm (but not too hot) shower or bath one to two hours before going to bed. This will help you fall asleep more quickly and stay in a deep, restful sleep through the night.
- Taking melatonin supplements – Melatonin is an effective supplement that may help you fall asleep, especially if you have insomnia. Be sure to discuss with a doctor or physician in order to get a prescription before taking this supplement. PLEASE, DO NOT EVER OPT TO TAKE IT WITHOUT A PRESCRIPTION SO YOU CAN PREVENT THE OCCURRENCE OF AN OVERDOSE.
- Avoid drinking any liquid before bed – Drinking water before bed can increase the amount of times you need to urinate at night. It is advisable to avoid drinking any liquid two hours before going to bed to enable you get enough rest. Drink enough water during the day to compensate for this and to help you stay hydrated at night.
To learn more about healthy living, read here.