Wouldn’t it be a dream to sleep through the entire night, every night? When we’ve had a good night’s sleep we say we “slept like a baby,” but if you had a baby, you’d know they rarely ever stay asleep all night. So most of us do in fact sleep like babies.
The recommended amount of sleep for a baby would be social suicide as an adult, plus we’d never get anything done. Just like sleep is essential for them while they’re young, we never grow out of needing a good night’s sleep but its importance is lost along the way.
We forget how vital it is in our everyday lives and looking to improve our sleeping habits is no longer a priority – but that’s all about to change after you hear what the experts have to say.
Why Is a Good Night’s Sleep So Important?
Sleep Is the Foundation of Health and Wellness
“Though our culture has at times stigmatized sleep as being for the weak or lazy, our biology values sleep above even food and water as the most essential ingredient for life,” says Ely Tsern, Co-Founder and CEO of Bryte. Consistent deprivation of sleep is implicated in almost all modern diseases, from obesity to dementia and even cancer, so it’s in your best interests that you aim to get a good night’s sleep every night.
But sleep is not just a thing that your doctor would tell you that you need, it’s also the thing you want, as the most important enabler of living your best possible life explains Tsern – we don’t know about you but we’ve never felt more motivated to jump into bed. He says we shouldn’t look at sleep as just a necessity but as an opportunity to be unlocked through the natural restorative power that it offers. Inspiring, right?
Speaking of restoration, “most of us already think about exercise and nutrition to improve our physical well-being, but the gains from these are largely actualized during and with restorative sleep,” says Tsern. These include recovery from exercise, injury, illness, as well as the building of strength, resilience, and immunity.
Adequate sleep promotes the optimal function of the immune system. “During sleep, the body produces cytokines, which are proteins that help promote sleep and help the immune system fight off infections,” says Emma Caird, Certified Fitness and Wellness Coach.
“Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can make your immune system more susceptible to illnesses because the body is naturally producing fewer cytokines.” By adding more consistent healthy sleep habits to your nightly routine, you’re taking the first steps to ensure a resilient immune system.
Tsern believes investment in a good night’s sleep is a force multiplier to other investments in health and wellness, and we completely agree. Take our money already!
A good night’s sleep, especially REM sleep, is when we really metabolize and cement our memory, skills, and insights. “There is a good reason why we are told to ‘sleep on a problem.’ From students to anyone learning a new skill or seeking to be on top of their game mentally, prioritizing sleep is vital,” says Tsern.
As a matter of experience, most of us already intuitively know that we are not the best partners, parents, colleagues, or friends after we sleep poorly. But Tsern states this is also a scientific fact. Sleep is a natural emotional counterbalance, offering everything from therapy from trauma and stress to emotional resilience for the challenges of the next day ahead.
You didn’t think we could talk about why it’s important to get a good night’s sleep without boosting energy, did you? When you wake up feeling rested, you feel like you can take on the world. Our daily energy levels are directly affected by the quality of sleep we get each night.
“Sleeping decreases a person’s energy metabolism and conserves it for when it’s most needed, like when you want to achieve peak performance,” says Caird. “Studies have shown that sleep deprivation makes you five times more likely to develop depression, anxiety or panic disorders.”
So the next time you’re exhausted and reaching for another cup of coffee, Caird advises to consider sleeping, taking a nap, or to make reaching the target hours of sleep a priority. Well-rested feels a hell of a lot better than coffee.
Builds Stress Resilience
“Deep, restorative sleep helps balance the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system impacts nearly every aspect of our physiology from our heart rate to sleep to digestion, to name a few,” explains Caird. It consists of two systems: the sympathetic, or “fight-or-flight” response; and the parasympathetic, or “rest and digest” response.
Only one can be dominant at any given time and when in a perpetual state of chronic stress, which elevates cortisol levels, the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive. Getting a good night’s sleep each night is an effective technique to activate the “rest and digest” response to help reduce stress.
How Much Sleep Do We Need a Night?
“On average, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night,” says Dr. Nicloe Avena, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “The recommendation is really the same for both males and females, but according to the CDC, only 64.5% of men actually get those minimum seven hours of sleep at night on average” so it’s a good thing you’re here.
Dr. Avena explains that when we don’t get enough sleep, we’re at a much greater risk of developing certain health problems such as heart disease. “Considering that men are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than women and they often develop heart disease 10 years earlier than women do, it’s especially important that men get enough sleep each night.”
But we wouldn’t dare deliver bad news without any good news. The good news is that you can train yourself to sleep better at night. Thank god.
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How To Achieve a Good Night’s Sleep
Slumber and Rise at the Same Time
“Maintaining a regular bedtime and waking time is key to feeling more energized and less groggy during the day,” says Caird. “Studies have shown that just one hour of sleep loss requires four days to recover.”
She says it’s important to schedule a consistent time for sleep each night, including an anchor period which varies by tow to four hours regardless of your schedule (hello weekends). Not all of us are aspiring early risers and want to get up at 7 am on a Saturday, which is completely fine if you stay within two to four hours of your weekday schedule.
To make things easier, Caird suggests creating a wind-down and morning routine that you can familiarise yourself with and associate with a good night’s sleep. We think we’re speaking for everyone when we say no one has four days to spare to recover after just one hour less of sleep.
Ditch the Devices
Choose to get deep, restorative sleep by unplugging from your tablets and TVs an hour or more before bed. “Our world is consumed by devices throughout the day and taking a conscious hour before bed to disconnect is beneficial to your sleep cycle. The blue light that these devices emit can affect your circadian rhythm,” says Caird.
You’ve probably noticed that you can still manage to watch episode after episode after a long day of complaining how tired you are once the TV’s on. Improving your sleep environment by removing technology temptations can help you ditch the devices and rest more easily each night. If you’re serious about a good night’s sleep, TVs in the bedroom are strictly a no-go.
Move Your Body
It goes without saying that if you’re not doing enough during the day, you’ll struggle to fall asleep at night. Your body just simply won’t be tired enough. “Adding purposeful play into your afternoons and nights will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer,” says Caird.
She explains that when you find a way to play purposely every day, through movement that excites you and makes you smile, then you’ve tapped into your sport of life. “A state of being that intrinsically motivates you to strive towards your goals and joy in life. Purposeful play is at the foundation of my teachings and moving your body for fun promotes deep, quality sleep.”
If you’re not reaching the recommended among of sleep, Caird recommends planning your workouts based on the sleep you’ll be able to get. For optimal performance during high-intensity workouts, plan to get a good night’s sleep the night before.
If you’ve had a night out or an interrupted sleep, plan your lower-intensity workouts on those days. You want to engage your body but not wipe yourself out, as oversleeping can feel just as bad as undersleeping.
Take a Complete, Holistic View of Your Sleep Quality and Don’t Obsess Over a Single Metric
“Healthy sleep is all about balance, and if you focus on just one single aspect it can lead you through a path of faux-optimization that can be counterproductive,” says Tsern.
Total sleep time is most important and generally leads to a balanced amount of all the various important sleep phases, including deep sleep, REM, and light sleep. As long as you’re getting the recommended amount of seven to nine hours, you can trust you’re getting the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
Don’t Stress About It
Which is always easier said than done, we know. The great irony of sleep is that the harder you try, the harder it becomes to achieve. And while tools like sleep trackers are wonderful, valuable things, it’s possible to overburden yourself with worry about getting everything right and perfecting your scores, explains Tsern.
“Much of what we are trying to do at Bryte is to take as much of this concern away as possible, allowing sleepers to feel confident about their sleep so that ultimately they barely need to think about it at all.”
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