It’s recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. But how important is sleep really? And what about those people who seem to function on just a few hours, while others need 9+ hours to participate in a Monday morning meeting?
In this article, we’ll cover why sleep is so important, what happens if we don’t get enough of it, and how to make sure we’re getting enough sleep each night for optimal health.
Our overall health is substantially tied to the quality of sleep we get.
With a consistent good night’s rest, we improve our immune system, protect ourselves from chronic diseases, safely manage our weight, and support our mental health.
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
Being regularly deprived of sleep can affect your mood and immune system in short term, and in the long term, raise your risk of serious medical conditions like obesity, heart disease, stroke, and even early death.
Even though some people seem to function just fine with less sleep than others, studies show that people can develop a tolerance to chronic sleep deprivation where they’re still at the same risk of developing these chronic conditions — they just don’t even feel the effects of less sleep.
With sleep being such a critical aspect of our overall health, it’s important to make a conscious effort to give our bodies consistent quality sleep.
The blue light emitted from our phone and device screens prevent our bodies from producing melatonin which helps us feel sleepy in the evening and supports better REM sleep (which is essential for maintaining cognitive function).
Try cutting off screen time 1-2 hours before bed to support your body’s natural supply of melatonin.
Even though the immediate effects of caffeine are strongest within 30-60 minutes, caffeine has long-term effects throughout your day.
If you drink one cup of coffee at 8 AM (literally, one 8oz cup of 95mg), half of the caffeine is still active five hours later. Now imagine having an afternoon grande pick-me-up of caffeine at the 3 PM slump, and your body will still be processing the caffeine well into the night, affecting your sleep into the early morning hours.
Opt for decaf after lunch hours and beat the afternoon fatigue with some fresh air, or a quick exercise break for a burst of energy.
Sticking to a bedtime (even on the weekends) keeps your circadian rhythm ticking with consistency. With a predictable bedtime, your body learns to expect that it will get the deep rest it needs, making it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get the high-quality deep sleep your body craves.
Our bodies take cues from our environment and can create healthy melatonin production and deeper rest with a repeated nighttime ritual.
In addition to cutting off screens a few hours before bedtime, try to perform your nightly duties consistently and incorporate a relaxing breathing exercise, meditation, gratitude practice, or aromatherapy to promote relaxation and restful sleep.
With our busy schedules and long lists of wellness goals, we might make it a habit to borrow time from our sleep each night. But as we’ve learned, the long-term effects of this borrowed time are serious.
Make quality sleep a priority for your optimal health and wellness. With a good night’s rest, we can perform our tasks with efficiency, focus better, make better decisions, and protect ourselves from serious chronic diseases.
Not to mention…those restful ZZZs are a well-earned reward for a hard day’s work.