Did you know that getting adequate sleep is linked to healthy brain function and physical performance? In combination with nutrition and physical activity, consistent sleep can reduce your risk of chronic disease and support biological processes in the body. It is recommended that adults 18 years and older obtain seven or more hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night.
Why is Sleep Essential?
Your body functions like an electronic device; it runs smoothly and efficiently until it needs to be recharged. Sleep acts as a charger to our organs and brain, so establishing proper sleep patterns truly influences every facet of our health. You can enjoy the following benefits of a restful night’s sleep:
So…how can we improve our sleep hygiene?
- Powerful immune system. Quality sleep is essential in restoring and repairing tissues and cells. When you achieve deep sleep, your body produces proteins that strengthen the immune system and decrease inflammatory responses. The more you sleep, the lower your risk of infectious diseases such as the cold or flu.
- High energy. Better mood. While you sleep, your body is actively restoring energy. Sleep rids the mind of unwanted clutter and allows various bodily systems to rest and rebuild. Therefore, if your sleep is continuously interrupted, you can experience mental distress in the form of anxiety, depression, and irritability.
- Cognitive performance. Sleep is linked to enhanced memory, problem-solving skills, and judgment. In fact, it is ideal to enter the REM, or rapid eye movement stage of sleep for optimal emotional processing and brain development. During this stage, your brain forms new neural connections that improve learning and motor skills. When you sleep, you succeed!
- Metabolism boost. Sleep is a key element in maintaining a healthy weight and metabolism. While you sleep, your body produces leptin, the hormone responsible for appetite suppression. Increased leptin will support nutritious food choices the following day. On the other hand, decreased sleep can increase levels of ghrelin, the hormone that fuels appetite. Therefore, you are more likely to crave refined carbohydrates for quick energy.
- Happy hormones. In addition to hunger hormones, sleep regulates cortisol, the stress hormone, and melatonin, the sleep hormone. Ideally, cortisol levels should decrease throughout the day, managing your stress response. On the other hand, melatonin levels should increase in the evening, promoting a quality sleep experience. This cycle ensures a consistent sleep-wake schedule, regulated blood sugar, and optimal organ functioning.
- Healthy heart. The cardiovascular system is also significantly affected by sleep quality. During sleep, your blood pressure lowers and heart rate decreases; in other words, when you rest, your heart can rest. Insufficient sleep in the long-term can promote high blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Set a consistent waking and sleeping schedule and limit naps to no more than 20 minutes.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large meals at least three hours before bed.
- Create a bedroom environment that is dark, cool, and quiet.
- Aim for daytime exercise to allow your body to relax before bedtime.
- Reduce blue light exposure at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Instead of using electronic devices, choose restful activities such as reading.
While nutrition and exercise are critical components of our health, sleep is essential to long-term well-being. Allowing your body to rest can encourage healthy behaviors that will set the stage for disease prevention.
By, Coach Kaleigh