The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is fundamental in being able to properly maintain a healthy lifestyle. Sleep gives our bodies the much needed rest it needs to recover from each day, maintain homeostasis, and feel alert and awake throughout the day. The body has an internal clock that operates on a 24-hour cycle, signaling to itself when it should be bright and active versus when it should get increasingly tired and drowsy. To receive proper rest, individuals should be aware of the internal cues that the body is signaling and use them as indicators of when to rest and/or sleep. Light is also a significant external signal that gives the body cues for alertness. Natural light helps the body release the hormone, cortisol, allowing the body to be alert, whereas melatonin, the hormone responsible for inciting tiredness, is produced when natural light fades. So as you can see, we are naturally programmed to remain awake during the sunlight hours and become increasingly tired as the day wanes.

            When individuals do not receive enough sleep, they are increasingly susceptible to a range of diseases (i.e. type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and poor mental health), reduced cognition and reactions, and increased memory lapses and mood swings. So simply by getting enough un-interrupted sleep, we can combat many negative consequences. It is recommended that most adults get seven to nine hours of sleep. This gives the body sufficient time to complete several rounds of sleep cycles, known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, that aid the body in recovery. 

            There are many strategies that individuals can use to get into a consistent routine, enabling them to get the sleep they need. For instance, it may be helpful to set a bedtime and to set a time to rise and to adhere to that schedule every day, including weekends. Using a lavender scent on the underside of the pillow is said to aid in relaxation. Exercising throughout the day may make the muscles tired and prepared for rest.

Avoiding stimulating substances, such as caffeine, alcohol, T.V., computers, or other screens prior to bedtime or large meals that make it uncomfortable to lie down for rest may help. Ensuring your mattress, pillows, and room temperatures are conducive to your sleeping preferences is also important. You may even want to pay close attention to the mattress’s firmness and thread count of the sheets. Focusing on overall nutrition will help the body to operate properly when awake and during sleep. Consuming many whole plant-based foods can fuel the body to keep it healthy, making it easier for the body to focus on recovery during rest. Limiting long naps throughout the day allows the body to take full advantage of being tired when it’s time for prolonged sleep. Minimizing stress also plays a major role in achieving good sleep. Stress can significantly inhibit the body’s and mind’s ability to relax and successfully complete each sleep cycle. Invest time in activities that help you to destress, such as taking a long walking, talking to a good friend, and yoga/meditation. These are some key tips that may help get you started in getting better sleep.

            By sticking to a consistent and healthy sleep routine, we will end up feeling much more rested and vibrant throughout the day and our bodies will have been able to sufficiently recover. Sleep makes a significant impact on our physical and mental health. If you want to learn more about the sleep, I recommend reading The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Ariana Huffington. Huffington shares many personal experiences regarding sleep that further highlight its significance. It is an excellent read.

Resources:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep