You need it more than you think!
Sleep is essential for your health and wellbeing, but you probably don’t get enough. This lack of sleep has significant impact on your ability to function on a daily basis. So, what can you do to be more rested and have a better quality of life? Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of sleep, what happens when you don’t get enough, and ways to get more sleep.
Sleep is vital to your ability to function and survive, but the fact is that most of us take it for granted. Sleep consists of two recurring phases: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). NREM is where you spend the majority of your time. During this stage, tissue growth and repair takes place, energy is restored throughout the body, and hormones that are essential for growth/development are dispersed. REM is the part of sleep where dreaming occurs and allows your mind to process/consolidate emotions, memories and stress. During REM, the brain regions that control learning/developing new skills is stimulated. If for some reason this two-phase cycle is interrupted throughout the night, then your body misses out on these vital processes taking place.
Results of Sleep Deprivation
How do you know if you’re getting enough sleep? Any lack of sleep can cause a change in your behavior. After a night where you didn’t sleep well, it is common to be irritable, moody and lazy. These are the first signs of not getting enough sleep. If you continue to not get enough sleep, then you begin to have impaired memory, slowed speech, lack of emotional response and difficulty multitasking. If you get to the point that you are falling asleep for a few seconds at a time while doing activities, such as driving or reading, then you are severely sleep deprived and might start to experience hallucinations as your body starts to go into the early stages of REM sleep while you are still awake. Obviously, the consequences of not getting enough sleep can have a severe impact, like fatal car accidents.
There are several things that can impact your ability to sleep. Health problems, such as snoring, pain, illness or depression, can play a huge role in causing a deprivation of sleep. Other issues, like insomnia or narcolepsy, are specific health concerns that are directly related to sleep. Drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages in the afternoon/evening or exercising too close to bedtime can also be causes of poor quality sleep. Environmental factors, such as your bedroom being too hot/cold, too noisy, too brightly lit or your bed is uncomfortable, can play a significant role in your ability to sleep. The number one thing that cause sleep disruption on a short-term basis is stress. It can be anyone of these factors or a combination of them that cause poor quality sleep.
In order to get the best sleep possible, you need to find what works best for you. If you have a medical condition that is contributing to your lack of sleep, consult a doctor in order to have it addressed accordingly. For other sleep disturbance issues, it is recommended that you go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day. Don’t have caffeine within four to six hours before bed and try to limit use during the day. Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or eat heavy meals right before going to sleep or if you wake up during the night. Decrease the amount of noise and light in your room. Keep the temperature regulated so it is not too hot or cold. Exercise regularly in order to exert enough physical energy during the day so you’ll be tired at night. All of these will help you sleep better, but how much sleep do you really need? It varies for each person, but the current recommendation is somewhere between 7-9 hours for adults. For a list of sleep needs for different age groups, please see Fast Facts. Sleep is one of the most important things that you can do to help your body stay healthy, for you to feel more focused, and be more productive every day. So, do your body a favor and give it the sleep that it needs! For any further information about the importance of sleep, please visit the American Psychological Association (APA) at https://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/index.html.