Why You Need Sleep and How to Get More of It

Why You Need Sleep and How to Get More of It

Why You Need Sleep

Many professionals strive to find a balance between work and home life. In an attempt to find balance, far too many people sacrifice a vital biological necessity—sleep. The average adult needs a full seven to eight hours of sleep to give their body time for full rejuvenation. Some may see that much rest as indulgent, but when you look at the facts, you’ll see it leaves the mind and body working at it’s best, which means you’re at peak performance.

Importance of Sleep

Sleep is more than time for your body and brain to relax. It’s when your energy reserves go to work repairing, restoring, and rejuvenating your body.

The Brain

The brain uses sleep to clear away the old connections you don’t need and strengthens the ones you do. With less than seven hours of sleep, messages from the brain start to slow down. The less sleep you get the slower your brain goes all in an attempt to get the body back to a resting state. You may think you’re okay with five or six hours of rest, but reaction times, decision-making skills, and reasoning abilities all begin to suffer.

Appetite

Your appetite and metabolism change during sleep deprivation as well. Hormones like ghrelin, which controls hunger, and leptin, which makes you feel full, get released in different amounts.  The result—you eat more. When you’re tired, you tend to eat more and crave high-fat, sugary foods that lead to weight gain.

Immune System

The immune system also suffers when you don’t get enough rest. Have you ever noticed that you feel achy and sore when you haven’t gotten a good night’s rest? It could be an old mattress, but it’s more likely you didn’t give your immune system enough time to do its work. Without enough sleep, inflammation increases and the immune system slows down, which means you can’t fight off infection as well.

How to Get More (and Better) Sleep

Many people struggle to get a full night’s rest because of stress, medical conditions, or a changing work schedule. Good sleep hygiene can help establish healthy circadian rhythms and let you get the sleep you need despite the challenges you may be facing.

Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Go to bed at the same time every day, even weekends. The brain releases hormones to start the sleep cycle, and keeping a regular sleep schedule helps to regulate the release of those hormones. To further support better your circadian rhythms, try to wake up at the same time every day.

Create the Right Environment

While multipurpose rooms are efficient, the bedroom needs to be solely devoted to sleep. That way when it’s time to lay down for bed, the brain automatically begins to settle for the night. A comfortable mattress that supports your preferred sleep position, temperatures between 60-68 degrees, and a dark, quiet atmosphere can help you to not only fall asleep faster but stay asleep longer.

Eat Smart and Healthy

Avoid stimulants like caffeine at least four hours before bedtime. A light, healthy dinner eaten three to four hours before bed will prevent any discomfort that could keep you awake. If you need a light snack, try eating foods that support good sleep like dairy products rich in calcium or bananas, which are high in potassium. Both aid in the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.

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