Sleep Hygiene: The ABCs of Why It’s Important to Get Your ZZZs
Many of us can get by on five or six hours of sleep every now and then without feeling the effects — but should you?
It’s no secret that sleep is essential to our health, but many people underestimate just how important sleep can be to our physical, mental, and social well-being. When approaching your health from a holistic angle, sleep is just as vital as exercising, eating well, and steering clear of alcohol and smoking.
For adults, the generally accepted amount of sleep is eight hours. Some of us need more, while others may need slightly less. But the fact remains that when you sacrifice more sleep than you should, it’s going to take a toll on your health.
Alertness and Productivity
You don’t need science to tell you that feeling tired can make you sluggish and less focused. It’s hard to maintain your concentration when your body’s batteries need to be recharged. And when you’re moving slower and can’t focus, your productivity is going to suffer.
Several studies on the effects of sleep deprivation came out in the 2000s. The results found that sleep is connected to several brain functions, including memory, cognition, concentration, and productivity. It can also impair decision making and leave you feeling off-balance.
Scientists also studied the effects of sleep deprivation in children. Sleep has a direct impact on student performance and behavior and can affect their ability to learn and retain information.
It turns out there’s more truth to “getting your beauty sleep” than you might realize. One of the most telltale signs of sleep deprivation is tired-looking eyes. Without adequate sleep, your eyes may become dry and irritated, which can lead to swelling and inflammation. Your eyes might start looking older and develop fine lines or dark circles.
And because poor sleep often leads to physical stress, your body’s appearance may take a toll. Prolonged stress can lead to weight gain, hair loss, wrinkles, and other issues that could make you look older than you really are.
Studies suggest that proper sleep can help your body improve its caloric intake. Sleep affects the hormones that regulate your appetite. Without enough sleep, your body may not efficiently use its calories, which could lead to overeating and weight gain.
Research has found a possible link between sleep quality and depression. A study over ten years looked at suicide patterns and found that sleep deprivation played a pivotal role. Another study also suggests that those with insomnia are more likely to be depressed.
Endurance and Performance
Athletic performance is directly impacted by the amount of sleep you get each night. Sleep is a vital part of the training process because it’s when the body repairs tissues and heals from tough workouts. Without this period of rest and recovery, you could be putting yourself at risk of an injury or will otherwise be unable to optimize your workouts.
With adequate sleep, you’ll be able to improve your speed, coordination, endurance, and intensity better and faster than you could with poor sleep habits.
Fat and Weight Gain
The high levels of stress your body experiences, when it doesn’t get enough sleep, can also lead to weight issues. Some studies have suggested a link between poor sleep and obesity, citing that a lack of sleep may prevent some people from maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Your brain is directly connected with your gut, with each influencing the function of another. When you’re sleep-deprived, it can cause changes to your gut microbiome, which will ultimately impact your mental state. It doesn’t take long for sleep to affect your gut health, either. Though more research is needed, results so far indicate that sleep affects our microbiome’s diversity, specifically a decrease in good bacteria and a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
This is one reason why it’s essential to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Putting the right foods into your body will help you to maintain a healthier gut, which will have positive effects on your brain and your sleep quality.
One of the most significant risks to your heart health is high blood pressure. Quality, consistent sleep has been shown to help regulate blood pressure naturally. In addition, the right amount of sleep can help your heart do less work and lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Your mother may have told you that sleep is the best medicine when you’re sick, and she’s right (that, and chicken noodle soup, of course). When you sleep, your body goes into repair mode because it’s not spending energy on other activities. You can dedicate all of your resources to recovery, fighting off infections, and kicking cold symptoms to the curb.
One German study found that sleep can improve the functions of T cells, which are cells in your immune system that help you fight off disease. When you don’t get enough sleep, T cells and antibodies are reduced and won’t provide as strong of a defense against illnesses.
How to Improve Your Sleep Quality Naturally and Effectively
Sleep is cumulative, which is why it’s not a good idea to practice poor sleep habits for the long term. The more you rob yourself of your zzz’s, the more you sink into “sleep debt” that must be repaid one way or another. If you can’t pay back that debt in sleep, then your body will start pulling from other resources, which usually results in your body becoming out of tune.
Here are some ways you can start repaying your sleep debt, interest-free:
Maintain a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Going to bed at different times each night can get your body’s circadian clock out of alignment. Instead, try a set bedtime for a few weeks to let your body know it’s time to rest.
Spend More Time Outdoors
Sunlight can be energizing, but too much of it can make you tired. The more active you are outside during the day, the more ready your body will be when it’s time to sleep.
Turn Off The Screens
Blue light activates the visual part of the brain, which can keep you awake longer. Turn off the screens, like TVs and phones at least 30 minutes before you go to bed to help prepare your body for sleep.
Use Your Bed For Sleeping Only
Another way to improve your sleep quality is restricting activities in bed to just sleep. Don’t eat or work in the same bed that you sleep in. Condition your mind that your bed means bedtime.
If you’re struggling to fall asleep at night, clear your mind and let your body know it’s okay to relax. Try some relaxation techniques, get a professional massage, or even book a therapy session to help you release whatever’s keeping you awake.
If you have too much energy when it’s time for bed, you probably weren’t active enough during daylight hours. Exercise can help you improve sleep quality by letting your body release its energy earlier in the day so you’ll be ready for bed at night.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Food is life, so it’s no surprise that your diet plays an integral role in your sleep quality. Eating the wrong foods can leave you feeling hungry or give you indigestion, which makes it harder to sleep. Eating healthy foods has the opposite effect and may help you sleep better.
Certain foods have also been associated with promoting better sleep. Eat a handful of almonds, a spoonful of peanut butter, or some kiwi slices before bed to see if your sleep improves.
Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Smoking
Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, which is why many people rely on their morning coffee or a cigarette to perk them up. However, too many stimulants during the afternoon and evening can keep you from falling asleep.
Alcohol is a depressant, which slows down your brain and can even make you feel tired. However, an alcohol-induced sleep can be disruptive to your sleep patterns, especially during the second half of the night when your body starts processing the alcohol in your system.
Stop Sleeping In When You’re Well Rested
There can be too much of a good thing, including sleep. When you sleep in, you’re giving your body less time to be active during the day and making it harder to fall asleep that night. Try to get up and moving when you wake up and feel rested instead of going back to finish that dream.
Improve Your Spine Health
Chiropractic can be an effective treatment in reducing pain and discomfort throughout the body. Any tension or pain is released through chiropractic adjustments to allow your body to get a better night’s rest. Also, by enhancing the central nervous system, your body can become more efficient throughout the day and night for an improvement to your overall health.
Is chiropractic care the cure to your sleep woes? Reach out today for a consultation and get the good night’s sleep, your body’s been missing.