Since I am away this weekend, running a NYC 1/2 marathon, I decided to turn my post over to my husband. I hope you all have a great and safe weekend! Enjoy.
Why is sleep important?
Most of us know sleep is important. All you have to do is get one bad night of sleep to know firsthand how important it is; you feel fatigued, foggy, and just plain crapy. On the other hand, the feeling of waking up after a great night sleep is pretty awesome; feeling rejuvenated, energetic, sharp minded, and ready to take on the day! So what is going on during our sleep that makes it so important? Unfortunately much of sleep remains a mystery, and there have been many theories over the years as to why sleep is so essential. Most recent research shows that sleep is the most important for our mental capacity. It is extremely important in processing new memories, integrating learned tasks, and other such things like judgment and attention. To illustrate just how important sleep is, here are just a few of the side effects of sleep deprivation:
- Decreased attention and reaction time
- Deficits in memory
- Poor decision making
- Altered mental status (i.e. depression, anxiety, poor mood, irritability)
- Low energy
- Decreased libido
- Increased rate of accidents (workplace, driving, etc…)
- Associated with increased risk of mortality
- Associated with increased co-morbidities:
- High blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke, heart attack, obesity, type II diabetes
- Decreased immune function
How much sleep do I need?
It is generally recommended to get around 8 hours of sleep, although this can vary significantly from individual to individual. The best way to find out how much sleep one needs is to pay attention to one’s own internal cues and to monitor for signs of sleep deprivation. However, making sure you aren’t sleep deprived doesn’t simply boil down to a magical number of hours that you need to hit. Another factor that is just as important to consider is the quality of sleep one is getting. It may be that you are getting 8, 9, or even 10 hours of sleep, but if it isn’t good quality sleep it won’t count for much.
How do I improve my sleep?
One way of improving our sleep and reducing sleep deprivation would be to simply increase the amount of time we allow ourselves to sleep; however, for many of us the quantity of our sleep may be difficult, or even impossible, to adjust. For many people it is often easier to try and focus on improving the quality of sleep one is getting. There are many factors that affect the quality of sleep that we are getting and are commonly referred to as our “sleep hygiene” habits. Here is a list of suggestions for developing good sleep hygiene:
- Sleep just long enough to feel rested and then make sure to get out of bed
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day
- Have coffee, tea, and other foods that have caffeine only in the morning
- Avoid alcohol in the late afternoon, evening, and bedtime
- Avoid smoking, especially in the evening
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, and free of reminders of work or other things that cause you stress
- Solve problems you have before you go to bed
- Exercise several days a week, but not right before bed
- Relaxation therapy, in which you focus on relaxing all the muscles in your body 1 by 1
- Working with a counselor or psychologist to deal with the problems that might be causing poor sleep
While improving the quantity and quality of one’s sleep isn’t always the easiest thing to do, it is incredibly important for both our physical and mental health. Hopefully this article will provide some insight into ways you can try and improve your sleep and overall health! If you have any questions or suggestions for ways you have found to improve your sleep, please let us know.