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You Need Sleep.

woman getting some rest

A few years ago, a British newspaper made headlines with a single sentence: “Not enough sleep leads to a wake.” The article cited a study that found that people who sleep less than six hours per night are 12% more likely to die prematurely than people who sleep eight hours per night.

So How Much Sleep Do I Need?

Sleep is a fundamental health issue. According to the CDC, roughly 33% of adults do not get enough sleep. When it comes to duration, sleep varies from person to person, and between age demographics. Infants and teenagers need more sleep than adults. So how much sleep do you need, exactly? There are a number of factors involved in answering this question. How active are you? Do you feel productive? How is your mood? Do you feel sleepy while driving? Are you dependent on caffeine to get you through the day? These factors will play into whether you need more sleep than the average person your age. However, here’s a general sleep-to-age scale to keep in mind:

  • Teenagers: 8-10 hours
  • Young Adults: 7-9 hours
  • Adults: 7-9 hours
  • Older adults: 7-8 hours

And no, naps do not count. Napping does not provide the same rest as sleeping through the night. If you find yourself sleeping during the day, or simply feeling sleepy and groggy, you are not likely not getting enough sleep during normal sleeping hours. There are a number of issues associated with sleep deprivation, including:

  • Accident-prone behaviors
  • Poor memory
  • Improper balance
  • Brain fog
  • Weight gain

If these factors aren’t enough to scare you into getting enough sleep, you should also know that the list of sleep benefits is headlined by some pretty impressive perks. Here are seven benefits of getting good rest!

Better Brain Functionality

a woman not able to focus on her work due to sleep deprivation

Sleep is essential for the brain to function, not just properly, but well. Some studies have compared the effect of sleep deprivation on the brain to the similar effects of binge drinking. Sleep helps the brain process information and learn better, recall faster and regulate mood, appetite and libido.

Memory

Sleep shares a mysterious connection with memory. While the brain is busy processing information during the day, that process continues into the night, as it works to consolidate and organize memories. This is especially true with regard to deep sleep, which is when the brain forms long-term memories. People who register insufficient sleep at night will frequently find that they have trouble recalling both short-term and long-term memories.

Emotions and Mental Health

woman feeling anxious and irritable from sleep deprivation

Poor sleep and sleep deprivation have long been linked to anxiety, depression and even bipolar issues. Sleep deprivation also increases mental health risks. Other studies have reported that individuals without proper sleep experienced negative moods, although we probably don’t have to tell you that! Most people have experienced feeling cranky and irritable after a night of poor sleep. Luckily, there are also benefits that come with being well-rested. A good night’s sleep has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress reactions.

Immune System

Studies have shown that sleep plays a critical role in the immune system’s memory, helping it create stronger antibodies. Sleep and circadian rhythms help regulate the immune system’s various responses, helping you fight off pathogens during the day when you are likely to encounter them, and establish an army against them as you sleep. Not getting enough sleep can throw these processes out of timing, causing inflammation.

Build Muscles

Sleep is critical for muscle growth. As we sleep, blood flow increases, helping our tissues, including muscles, repair themselves. Growth hormones are released, which affect muscle growth and development. If you work out during the day, sleep is an essential ingredient in seeing the most progress.

Keep Your Heart Happy

According to the CDC, proper sleep helps the heart regulate blood pressure. Poor sleep, on the other hand, has been linked to poor blood pressure and cholesterol. In general, there’s an established correlation between heart health and hours of sleep registered each night. Suffice to say, it’s in your best interest, and in your heart’s best interest, that you take the time for restful sleep each night.

Reduce Weight Gain

There have been several studies that link weight gain with poor sleep patterns.

According to a study that followed a group of dieters trying to lose weight, those who did not get adequate sleep lost half as much fat as those individuals who experienced consistent, quality sleep. All participants followed identical diets.

Those who did not register sufficient sleep were also hungrier, less satisfied after meals and less likely to exercise (the effect of low energy).

Poor sleep also inhibits your body’s ability to regulate insulin, leading to more fat storage instead of usage. Lack of sleep can further increase unhealthy cravings.

Sleep Hygiene

woman practicing good sleep hygiene

You know the importance of physical hygiene, but what about sleep hygiene? We are constantly bombarded with stimulants that make it difficult to unplug and get the best sleep. It is also important to sleep when your body is actually ready to sleep, following circadian rhythms. People who work shifts, especially at night, often don’t receive quality sleep. Good habits that promote good sleep are referred to collectively as sleep hygiene. This includes a number of factors, but there are a few that are generally agreed on as essential to getting the best rest possible. These include:

  • Going to bed and waking up at a consistent time
  • Following a consistent bedtime routine
  • Limiting naps
  • Eliminating sleep distractions, such as screens, from the bedroom
  • Avoiding stimulants such as coffee or alcohol
  • Establishing a peaceful sleep environment
  • Exercising during the day
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Reserving your bedroom for sleep and intimacy only (not work, television, etc.)

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Sleep is an essential, indispensable facet of wellness. Some people would love to spend their entire day in bed, while others struggle to get to bed on time. If you find you always have one more thing to do before bed, or you believe that getting to bed isn’t a priority, consider creating a bedtime routine to anticipate nightly. A book, a cup of tea or even new sheets may be a simple way of turning sleep into a small, though essential, luxury. You might be amazed at the difference regular sleep can make!

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