How much sleep do you average a night? 4 hours, 6 or maybe you are one of the lucky one's getting a full 7 to 8 hours?
You might be surprised to learn that studies show regularly getting at least 7 hours of good sleep at night does more than just help you wake up feeling rested and refreshed, it actually delivers a slew of great health benefits too.
From improved memory to weight loss, sleep plays a vital role in your health, wellness, and overall quality of life.
Here are 9 great reasons to get more z z z's!
1. Improved memory.
Your brain uses sleep time to process, file and store memories from the day. Do you ever wake up struggling to recall the day's earlier events and details? How about finding yourself making up "false memories" to try and fill in the blanks (a common side effect of sleep deprivation)? Try getting a few good nights sleep and see if finding your keys in the morning and recalling what you had for lunch becomes a little easier!
2. Boosted immunity.
Loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function, leaving you more susceptible to those germ bugs floating around. In a recent study participants who slept less than 7 hours a night were found to be almost three times more susceptible to to the common cold than those who were getting 7+ hours a night. If you find you're getting sick more often, catching every bug that comes along, it could be a sign you need more sleep!
3. Better mental focus and productivity.
When you're overtired it can feel like everything is coming at you all at once, and fast! Your ability to prioritize tasks, focus on one thing at a time, and follow things through to completion are challenged. When your mind feels clouded and your head is swimming it's easier to be distracted and feel overwhelmed by trying to get it all done. Notice a productivity hit lately? Might be time to get more zzz's!
4. Decreased risk of heart disease.
Many things contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, and lack of sleep is one of them. While you're sleeping the body uses that time to heal and make repairs to the heart and blood vessels. When you aren't getting enough sleep, your body doesn't have the time it needs to do a thorough job. Studies have shown a connection between reduced sleep and heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Sounds like some pretty good reasons to get that shuteye to me!
5. Improved mental health.
Depression, anxiety, severe mood swings and risk taking behavior have all been linked to not enough sleep. Studies have shown sleep deficiency can actually alter areas of brain. That's why when you're feeling sleep challenged you may discover you have more trouble making decisions, problem solving, managing your emotions and behaviors, and coping with change. While it may be difficult to remember lack of sleep could be a contributing factor when you're in the midst of those feelings, turning in a bit earlier than usual to promote a healthy nights sleep could be what your body needs.
6. Reduced chronic pain and inflammation.
Whether you're recovering from a recent injury, suffering from chronic headaches or fighting inflammation in the body, sleep can help. Studies have shown a direct link to a decease in chronic pain as well as an ability to lower the pain threshold to getting enough sleep. Inflammation often leads to pain and rest enables the body to repair cell damage, restore muscle tissue, and heal and repair blood vessels. Having a hard time falling asleep due to pain? Try a natural remedy such as soaking in an epsom salt bath to reduce muscle aches and pains, reduce bruising and flush out toxins ,or try arnica pellets, gel or cream to reduce inflammation, tenderness and bruising.
7. Boosted mood.
While it's not a guarantee you'll wake up with smile on your face every morning, sleep does affect your ability to regulate emotions. When you're overtired it's much harder to cope with the days twists and turns, making you more susceptible to snap at loved ones, cry more easily and laugh out of context or uncontrollably. Been having a rough go lately? May be time to turn in early!
8. Reduced risk of injury.
Your eye hand coordination, balance and reaction times are all challenged when running on little sleep. Making you more susceptible to fall off a ladder, trip off the curb of a sidewalk, or fail to hit the brakes in enough time to stop before hitting the car in front of you. Did you know The Institute of Medicine estimates 1 out of 5 auto accidents in the U.S. are a result of drowsy driving... that's about 1 million crashes a year! Feeling a bit uncoordinated and accident prone lately? May be time to hit the sheets!
9. Easier weight loss.
When you're tired you're more likely to feel challenged to get in that exercise and make healthy food choices. Mindless snacking, craving high calorie and high fat foods are often triggered by lack of sleep, thanks to the hormone leptin, who's levels drop. Which leaves you hungrier than usual and fighting food cravings you may not typically have. When you're lacking on sleep it's not uncommon to find yourself craving foods like chips, cookies and crackers. Instead of sitting down with a box or bag, try taking a nap, downing a big glass of water or going for a walk instead! And aim to hit the sheets just a little bit earlier tonight so you can set yourself up to feel and function better tomorrow.
Feeling sleep challenged? Try creating a regular bedtime routine. Such as going to bed and waking at about the same time most days of the week, shutting down electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime, engaging in some light stretching that prepares the body for sleep, minimizing bedroom distractions and avoiding caffeine after 2 p.m. are all great practices that support better quality sleep. If you find yourself routinely struggling with sleep, such as falling or staying asleep, contact your health care provider for more personalized options and to rule out any underlying health conditions so you can create a plan to help you up your sleep game!
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