Sleep Better and Catch More ZZZ’S: Why Sleep is So Important



We’ve all been there, loading up on coffee and slathering on concealer to hide dark and puffy under eye bags while nodding off at work, desperate for a nap. Whatever the cause of your lack of sleep, there are ways to get a better night’s sleep and wake up refreshed, renewed, and rejuvenated. Here are some helpful tips on improving your sleep, along with some health benefits of sleeping enough versus health risks associated with lack of sleep.

SLEEPLESS SUCKS

Not getting enough shut-eye? Not good. Lack of sleep can increase your risk of disease, cause weight gain, inhibit brain function, and mess with your hormones. Loss of sleep negatively impacts how you function in daily tasks and wreaks havoc on work performance. You’re more at risk of falling due to poor balance and coordination. Driving is hazardous when you are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel. Because less sleep affects your brain, cognition goes downhill, causing you to be less alert, less focused, and unable to think clearly. Poor sleep inhibits learning, and memory.

Your health is at stake with sleep deprivation, especially if it’s chronically long-term. Your immune system is weakened and leaves you susceptible to developing illnesses. The risk for developing high blood pressure increases along with the risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It’s also bad for your sex life. Losing zzz’s lowers libido as testosterone levels decrease along with your energy levels.

But enough about the detrimental effects of not getting enough sleep. What are the health benefits of getting enough sleep and how can you get a better night’s sleep? In addition to good nutrition and exercise, getting enough sleep is important to your health. Adequate sleep boosts cognition and memory, helps you learn more effectively and even enables your creativity to flourish.

You may actually live longer, too. The way you sleep affects your quality of life and can have a bearing on your longevity. A study has shown that more deaths among women aged 50 to 79 occurred among those who slept less than five hours a night. Inflammation improves with better sleep to help protect against premature aging, arthritis, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. One study noted that C-reactive protein levels, a common marker for heart disease risk, are 25 percent higher in people who slept six hours or fewer.

HERE’S HOW TO HELP

Work with your own built-in circadian rhythm by exposing yourself to bright light during the day and keeping your room extra dark at night. Keep devices and your TV turned off at night because artificial light affects sleep-inducing melatonin production that can keep you wide-eyed, tossing, and turning. A study of people with insomnia found that those exposed to bright light in the daytime enjoyed improved sleep quality and that the time it took to fall asleep fell by 83%. Another study concluded that adding two hours of bright light during the day added an extra two hours of sleep to the participants’ slumber schedule and improved their sleep efficiency by 80%.

Cut out caffeine later in the day. Avoiding java jitters will help you get a better night’s sleep. A study has shown that sleep quality was worsened in those who consumed caffeine up to six hours before bed. Missing your nighttime beverage? Opt instead for decaf or enjoy herbal or rooibos tea that’s chock full of health benefits and is also naturally caffeine-free.

Constant cat-napper? Leave naps for the cats. One study found that people were sleepier during the day after taking long daytime naps. Although long naps seem to be detrimental to health and sleep quality, a short 30-minute nap might be beneficial and has been shown to boost brain function.

Create a relaxing and calming atmosphere to induce sleep, and adopt a bedtime ritual like listening to soothing music or nature sounds, meditating, taking a bath and using essential oils like lavender and chamomile.

Get going on your goals to improve your sleep. The more soundly you can slumber, the healthier and happier you’ll be.

 


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