It’s easy to take a good night’s sleep for granted until you experience a bout of insomnia. Lying awake and watching the hours tick by can be incredibly frustrating. But what benefits does the human body derive from sleep, and what happens when you don’t get enough? How can you ensure that your sleep is both regular and restorative?
The benefits of sleep
According to the nonprofit health website HelpGuide.org, most adults need between 7 1/2 and nine hours of sleep each night. The health benefits of adequate sleep are many. Harvard Women’s Health Watch lists improved learning and memory, more efficient metabolism, brighter mood and better concentration as just some of the positive side effects.
It’s tempting to cut back on sleep to meet the demands of modern life. But omitting even one or two hours of sleep each night can lead to sleep deprivation. Once this becomes a regular habit, you may even forget what it feels like to be well-rested.
How to tell if you're sleep deprived
If you regularly sleep seven hours a night, you probably don’t think of yourself as potentially sleep deprived. But do any of the following statements ring true?
- You rely on an alarm clock and frequently hit the snooze button.
- You feel sleepy during meetings or in warm rooms.
- You fall asleep while watching TV.
- You get drowsy while driving.
All of these are signs of sleep derivation, according to HelpGuide.org.
The hazards of sleep deprivation
The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that sleep deprivation negatively affects the brain and nervous system, cardiovascular health, metabolic function and the immune system. It’s a vicious cycle. Lack of sleep causes problems in these areas, and conditions like hypertension, obesity and metabolic syndromes also cause a lack of sleep.
Stress frequently chases sleep away, according to the APA, and usually a case of stress-induced insomnia goes away once the situation is resolved. But if insomnia isn’t managed properly from the beginning, it can become a long-term condition.
Tips for restful sleep
A few simple lifestyle changes can help you get a good night’s sleep. The Mayo Clinic and the APA offer the following suggestions.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on the weekend.
- Limit daytime naps.
- Avoid caffeine in the four to six hours before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly, but don’t schedule your workout too close to bedtime.
- Ensure that your bedroom is dark and the temperature is comfortable.
- Limit TV, computer and smart phone use during the hour before bedtime.
Follow these tips to establish a sleep schedule with many health benefits. Here’s to sweet dreams.
Check out the following resources for more:
- HelpGuide.org (http://helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm)
- Harvard Women’s Health Watch (http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health)
- APA (http://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why.aspx#)
- Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleep/HQ01387)