Do you get enough quality sleep? The importance of sleep is the most underrated and misunderstood aspect of health and well-being in the developed world. Not getting enough quality sleep has an adverse impact on almost every aspect of our lives.
A new article by Dr Mercola explaining the importance of sleep, and an amazing book I just finished reading that I would highly recommend to you “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington (creator of the Huffington Post) have inspired me with new information and tips that I am excited to share with you. I have included some of the most relevant of that new content in this article, together with previous information I have published, to give you a comprehensive understanding of why sleep is so important to your health and well being.
According to a study by the American Cancer Society, the optimal night’s sleep to promote longevity and good health is around 7 hours. If you’re sick or experiencing excessive stress you may need more sleep.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is the most misunderstood and underrated health habit in the developed world. In the busy lives we lead, sleep tends to become the thing we do at some stage at the end of the day after we have fulfilled all of our work obligations and social commitments; we have allowed the importance of sleep to be sent to the back of our queue of priorities. This is a big midtake and the great majority of people are making it.
According to Dr Mercola “virtually every organ in your body has its own clock or circadian rhythm, and in order to keep them all in sync, you need to keep a regular waking and sleeping schedule that is linked to the rising and setting of the sun.”
Amongst a multitude of health issues caused by inadequate or irregular sleep (e.g. being a “Night Owl” working late nights or all nighters, or worse consuming excess alcohol or caffeine into the night) the following stand out for me:
- Sleep deprivation has been shown to contribute to many of the diseases associated with aging, and can definitely accelerate your aging process.
- Long-term sleep deprivation or insomnia is believed to be a common cause of depression.
- Without enough quality sleep your brain function declines and your brain ages faster.
- Your body produces melatonin, a brain hormone, just before and during sleep; melatonin has been shown to have roles in preventing cancer, strengthening your immune system, and may even slow down cellular aging.
- When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. Excessive cortisol can break down skincollagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic, resulting in increased skin aging.
- Lack of sleep is a safety hazard every day on the road. Drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as drunken driving. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that fatigue causes 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S. alone.
- Set a regular time to sleep and put it in your diary; it may be your most important appointment every day.
- Keep wake-up times consistent and sleep quality will improve dramatically, giving you more energy and decreased sleep need. Eat light in the evening.
- Try to minimise or cut out Caffeine consumption after 2PM. Caffeine in the system reduces the amount of deep sleep that occurs at night.
- Don’t drink alcohol for at least 2 hours before your scheduled sleep time. Give your body time to process the alcohol you’ve drunk before you try to sleep. This varies widely from person to person so keep a note on how it affects you over a period of time.
- Don’t watch any fast-moving, violent or dramatic TV or videos immediately before going to bed. They will leave your mind in an active state and make getting to sleep difficult.
- Avoid using your LCD screen devices for at least an hour before sleeping. i.e. TV, your computer or mobile phone. These devices emit “blue light” which tricks your body into thinking that it’s still daytime by inhibiting the production of melatonin, the brain hormone that signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.
- Read a book under an indirect light. It will relax your mind in readiness for a good night’s sleep; alternatively, listening to relaxing music will help you to drift into peaceful sleep.
- Meditate for 15 minutes to calm your brain and prepare your mind for sleep.
- Master the art of napping. We’re neurologically wired for the afternoon nap. The “afternoon dip” occurs between the 6th and 8th hour after waking up – that’s 1pm-3pm if you rise at 7am. But there’s no hard and fast rule on when you should nap; listen to your body. Take a nap before an important meeting; it will enhance your decision-making ability, increase your confidence and ability to focus.
- Sleep in the cold and dark. Cool temperatures will give you higher quality sleep. Keep the room as cool as possible without making it uncomfortably cold; too cold and you’ll wake up in the middle of the night. Also make sure you minimise the light coming through your window as that light is a signal to your body to wake up. If possible use a black-out blind.
- Maintain a positive attitude to life” A positive attitude toward life appears to improve sleep quality and actually reduce the amount of sleep needed.
In my research I found the website “sleepwarrior.com” and an eBook they have published called “40 Sleep Hacks -The geek’s guide to optimizing sleep.” I have provided links to this website and to download the eBook free of charge in the Resources section at the end of this article
I hope you now have a better understanding of the importance of sleep to almost all aspects of your health and well-being”.
Getting good sleep is critical, and becomes even more important if we want to live a long healthy life.
Preparing your bedroom to optimise sleep and relaxing your mind before you go to bed will increase your chances of getting the minimum of 7 hours sleep you need every night for optimum health, well-being and energy, and will have a very positive impact on your life expectancy.
You can access the article and short video by Dr Mercola here.
I have also added a link to “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington, in the resources section below (p.s. it’s not an affiliate link). Whatever your age, and your current work or retirement status, you will gain life-changing insights by reading it.
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“Thrive” by Arianna Huffington can be viewed and purchased on Amazon
Resources for sleeping well as you age www.sleepwarrior.com is the website and the eBook they have published called “40 Sleep Hacks – The geek’s guide to optimizing sleep.” is www.sleepwarrior.com/sleep-hacks-ebook
The Infographic “How Technology Affects Sleep ” can be viewed here