For anyone who’s intentional about healthy living, you’ve probably adopted certain practices that align with your long-term wellness goals.
However, if you’re eating your greens and keeping to that exercise program, counting calories and cutting down on sugar, but neglecting how important a good night’s rest and building good sleep habits are, it’s time to make some changes!
Getting less sleep than you need rubs off more than your mood and energy levels in the morning. Sooner than later, sleep deprivation can cause a health decline that affects your body’s biological functions, immune response, mental state, and overall productivity.
How Does Good Sleep Habits Affect Your Health?
As much as it seems that way, sleep-time is not just when your body is most idle.
When your brain waves shut down, your body temperature drops, and the rest of your system relaxes, the stages of sleep begin. While asleep, certain body processes occur that directly influence your general wellness.
The brain (which is still active even while asleep) requires sleep to adequately clear out toxins, regulate hormones and improve your memory/retention abilities, boost creativity levels, aid learning/decision-making abilities, and enhance your mental performance.
Sleep also helps your immune system function better (fight off illnesses), and getting less sleep than you need causes a high white blood cell count, just like stress does. For the rest of your body, sleep helps your system release hormones and proteins that aid tissue repair, aid the maintenance and loss of weight, increase your physical performance levels, strengthen your heart, reduce the risk of developing heart diseases and positively affect your mental state.
Sleep habits – whether positive or negative – will affect your health, and should be taken seriously.
What Qualifies as Good Sleep, Quantity or Quality?
When it comes to quantity, we consider the number of hours that health experts recommend.
Adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, elderly people (65 years and older) need about 7-8 hours of sleep, mid-teens (between the ages of 14-17 years) should be getting about 8-10 hours of sleep, young children and toddlers require 9-11 hours, while infants need as much as 17 hours of sleep per day, naps included.
If a person misses some hours of sleep, your body requires that you make up for that, and the amount of sleep you need goes up! This way, your body gets all the rest that it needs to function.
When it comes to sleep – means that you’re truly enjoying the physical and mental benefits of sleep that go past the numbers. This is determined by not how long you’re sleeping, but by how well.
According to findings from research on the subjective meaning of the term Sleep Quality, sleep quality has been associated with “subjective estimates of the ease of sleep onset, sleep maintenance, total sleep time, and early awakenings. In addition, restlessness during the night, movement during sleep, and anxiety, tension or calmness when trying to sleep have also been reported to be associated with sleep quality”. Some other factors that determine the quality of sleep include the depth of sleep as well as mood and feelings upon awakening.
Quantity is just as important as the quality of sleep you’re getting, so you must be prioritizing both to build good sleep habits.
Thankfully, you can improve the quantity and quality of your sleep simultaneously by;
- Identifying underlying medical issues that could affect your sleep,
- making lifestyle changes like cutting down on alcohol, caffeine, screen time, etc before bed,
- having a bedtime/sleep schedule,
- investing in setting up a sleep environment that’s relaxing and conducive (dim and quiet, comfortable bedding, etc),
- and practicing sleep hygiene.
Getting Good Sleep: Myths vs Facts
1. “Your body adjusts to getting little sleep”.
Wrong. Getting less sleep than you need takes a toll on your system – short term, this can increase tiredness and decrease productivity, and in the long run, your metabolism, immune and cardiovascular system (amongst others) will suffer from it.
2. “Naps make up for all the sleep you lose at night”
Not quite. Research shows that naps can give you an energy boost, but this is usually insufficient and can mess with your sleep schedule, make it harder to fall asleep at night, and even leave you feeling sluggish afterward.
3. “Exercising at night can negatively affect your sleep”
Not. Whether it’s moderate or vigorous, exercising does not get in the way of a good night’s sleep. If anything, it can tire out the body, relax the mind and help most people sleep better.
Sleep is important, therefore building good sleep habits and getting good sleep is paramount to your overall wellness; make no mistakes about that.
Be sure you’re getting adequate shut-eye time, and if you’re not, remember that there’s always room for improvement, and your entire body system would be better off for it!