Sleep. We all do it (hopefully) every night or day. But the reality is, some of us have more trouble than others maintaining a healthy sleep schedule.
If you are having trouble getting enough sleep, you’re not alone. Roughly 40 percent of adults report that they fall asleep during the day without meaning to at least once a month while an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans say they suffer from chronic sleep disorders [i].
This can come with a host of problems for both your physical and mental health. Let’s explore why good sleep is so important and talk about ways to improve your sleep quality.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
Although there are many theories, scientists don’t actually know why we sleep. It’s theorized that there are several reasons why we might sleep ⅓ of our lifetime [ii]. As we move through the day, our brain forms new pathways and memories; sleep is thought to be when we store this information away most efficiently. Our body also gets the well-deserved break it needs to rid itself of toxins, repair cells, replenish energy, and regulate hormone and protein release.
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency
When a person doesn’t get enough sleep, there are a lot of consequences that may follow. Sleep deprivation and deficiency are two outcomes that can occur if a person doesn’t sleep at least 7 - 8 hours every night.
Sleep deprivation can occur if you consistently don’t get enough sleep.
Sleep deficiency is a larger umbrella term that can encompass a range of poor sleep habits. One might fall into this category if they experience sleep deprivation, sleep outside of their body’s natural cycle, don't get quality sleep, or have a sleep disorder.
Those experiencing sleep deprivation or sleep deficiency may experience the following symptoms:
- Exhaustion or fatigue during the day
- Issues learning, focusing, and reacting
- Trouble with decision-making, problem-solving, recalling things
- Poor emotional and behavioral regulation
Children with sleep deprivation or sleep deficiency may experience slightly different symptoms:
- Overly active
- Problems paying attention
- Misbehaving during school
- Poor grades
- Angry, impulsive outbursts and mood swings
- Sadness or depression
- Lack of motivation
Long-Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency
- Changes in weight and appetite
- Increased risk of heart disease or stroke
- Higher rates of depression
- Greater risk of diabetes
- Increased issues with inflammation
- Trouble maintaining interpersonal relationships
How Much Sleep Should I Get Every Night?
The amount of sleep we need to stay healthy will vary greatly through a person’s development. Developing infants and children need more sleep than adults.
Infants and children through age five will generally get a combination of sleep during the night and napping during the day. As you move into young adulthood and into maturity, you will eventually only need roughly 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
Believe it or not, oversleeping can be detrimental to your health too. Regularly getting more than 9 hours of sleep a night can result in sluggishness and has the potential to negatively impact your mental health. Some research shows that those who sleep over 9 hours regularly have more calcium buildup in their heart and might also have stiffer leg arteries [iii].
How to Achieve Better Sleep
Yes, there are a lot of negative effects associated with a lack of sleep. However, there is hope for acquiring good, healthy sleep.
It’s not unusual for those with sleep issues to compensate with naps during the day. Unfortunately, naps only provide small bursts of energy and alertness – they don’t carry the same benefits of a proper night of sleep. The same goes for catching up on sleep on your days off. Sure, it feels good at the moment but it will inevitably disrupt your sleep-wake pattern and cause more harm than good.
There is only one real solution for regaining your energy and health: getting high-quality sleep every night. Of course, this is easier said than done. While it’s no walk in the park nailing down a healthy sleep schedule, there are methods that will help over time.
Follow These Tips For a Better Night’s Sleep
- Choose a consistent time to go to bed and wake up.
- Maintain your sleep schedule on both weeknights and weekends. There should be no more than about an hour’s difference between your sleep and wake time every day
- Avoid heavy, large meals within a couple of hours before bedtime.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages before bed.
- Instate a quiet time an hour before bed.
- Avoid intense workouts right before bed.
- Stay away from bright artificial lights (i.e. your phone or TV screen).
- Avoid stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine.
- Stay physically active during the day [iv].
- Create a sanctuary in your bedroom for rest, relaxation, and unwinding – not for work!
- Cultivate a nourishing bedtime routine.
- Keep a sleep diary for a couple of weeks. Write down how long you sleep every night, how you feel in the morning, and how tired you feel during the day
Changes You’ll Notice Once You Get Enough Sleep
If you successfully shift towards a healthy, 7-8 hours of sleep every night, there will be an abundance of benefits you’ll notice over time. Improved concentration and productivity can be a major perk. You’ll also see an improved immune system, better heart health, and a more regulated appetite. Consistently getting a full night of sleep will improve your overall well-being in a host of ways.
Sleep helps us to function better as human beings. Most creatures need sleep as part of our recharge stage. If you need assistance with proper sleep, try our Sleep by Nedley Health supplement to see if it’s the right fit for you.
[i] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (n.d.). Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
[ii] Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (n.d.). Why Do We Sleep, Anyway? Healthy Sleep.
[iii] Harvard Medical School (2015). Too much or too little sleep linked to stiffer arteries. Harvard Health Publishing.
[iv] LeWine, Howard (2019). Does exercising at night affect sleep? Harvard Health Publishing.