It's a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
As a society, we get 20% less sleep than our ancestors only 100 years ago. Our lack of sleep has become problematic, especially among college students. College students slept around 8 hours a night in the 1960s and '70s, seven by the '80s, and now that number is closer to six hours. We've always been told that sleep is important but not until recently have we discovered all of the various ways it affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Countless problems can be solved when we sleep for 7-9 hours each night!
The Importance of Sleep
Not only does the quantity of your sleep matter, but the quality is important as well. How well rested you are and how well you function the next day depend on your total sleep time and how much of the various stages of sleep you get each night.
We need to sleep to think clearly, react quickly, and create memories. In fact, the pathways in the brain that help us learn and remember are very active when we sleep. Skimping on sleep has a price. Cutting back by even 1 hour can make it tough to focus the next day and slow your response time. Studies have shown that when you lack sleep, you are more likely to make bad decisions and take more risks. This can result in poor performance on the job or at school and a greater risk for an accident or car crash.
Sleep also affects mood. Insufficient sleep can make you irritable and is linked to poor behavior and trouble with relationships, especially among children and teens. People who chronically lack sleep are also more likely to become depressed.
Sleep also is important for good health. Studies show that not getting enough sleep or getting poor quality sleep on a regular basis increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions. In addition, during sleep, your body produces valuable hormones. These hormones help children grow and help adults and children build muscle mass, fight infections, and repair cells. Hormones released during sleep also affect how the body uses energy. Studies find that the less people sleep, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese, develop diabetes, and prefer eating foods high in calories and carbohydrates.
Above information is directly from the NIH.
- Create a sleeping environment that is cool, dark, simple and comfortable with minimal electronic devices.
- Be intentional about your sleep and consistent with your sleep schedule; keep a sleep journal, fitbit, or sleep cycle app.
- Avoid caffeine 6 - 8 hours and alcohol 3 hours before bed.
- Make sure your brain knows when it's day (lights & physical activity) and when it's night (darkness & calm).
- Unplug 30 minutes before sleep, even your phone.
- Use ear plugs and sleep masks.
- Exercise regularly, but not right before going to bed.
- Read for leisure, listen to calming music, write for a few minutes in a journal, or try some other relaxing ritual to get body ready for sleep.
Getting enough sleep helps prevent chronic diseases and promotes overall health. Take a few minutes to assess your sleeping habits with the checklist below. Make any necessary changes to ensure you are getting the best quantity and quality of sleep that you can.
- Are you going to bed at the same time each night and rising at the same time each morning?
- Are you sleeping in a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold?
- Have you made your bed comfortable?
- Do you use the bedroom only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or using the computer?
- Do you avoid physical activity within a few hours of bedtime?
- Do you avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol within a few hours of bedtime?
- Do you avoid large meals and liquids before bedtime?
- Do you allow enough time for sleep each night so that you wake up feeling refreshed?