Updated: Sep 29
How much sleep do you average a night? 4 hours, 6 or maybe you are one of the lucky one's getting a full 8 hours? Studies show that regularly obtaining at least 7 hours of sleep each night does more than just help us wake up feeling rested and refreshed, it actually delivers some pretty great health benefits too! From improved memory to the ability to maintain a healthy waistline, sleep plays a vital role in our health and fitness and healthy living goals.
Here are 9 great reasons to get more z z z's!
1. Improve your memory. Our brain uses sleep time to process, file and store memories from the day. Do you wake up struggling to recall the day's earlier events and details? Do you find yourself making up "false memories" to 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 becomes that much easier!
2. Boost your 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 3 times more susceptible to to the common cold than those who were getting 7+ hours a night. If you find you are getting sick more often, catching every bug that comes along, it may be time to increase your sleep!
3. Sharpen mental focus and productivity. When you are overtired it can feel like everything is coming at you all at once, and fast! Your ability to prioritize task, focus on one thing at a time and follow things through to completion are challenged. When you mind feels clouded and your head is swimming it is easier to be distracted and feel overwhelmed to get it all done. Noticing a productivity hit lately? Might be time to up your zzz's!
4. Decrease your risk of heart disease. Many things contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, and lack of sleep is one of them! While you are 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. Improve your 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 is why when you are 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 find yourself feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious and/ or just a bit mentally challenged, try turning in a bit earlier than usual to promote a healthy nights sleep.
6. Reduce chronic pain and inflammation. Whether you are recovering from a recent injury, challenged with a headache 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. 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 or rubbing arnica gel or cream on the affected area to reduce inflammation, tenderness and bruising.
7. Improve your mood. While it's not a guarantee you will wake up with smile on your face every morning, sleep does affect our ability to regulate emotions. When you are overtired it is 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. Having a rough go? May be time to turn in early!
8. Reduce your risk of injury. Eye hand coordination, balance and reaction times are all challenged when running on little sleep. Making us more susceptible to fall off a ladder, trip on the curb of a sidewalk, or fail to hit the brakes in enough time to stop before hitting the car in front of us. Did you know The Institute of Medicine estimates 1 out of 5 auto accidents in the U.S. are a result of drowsy driving....wow that's about 1 million crashes a year! Feeling a bit uncoordinated and accident prone lately? May be time to up the sleep!
9. Empower weight control. When we are tired we are more challenged to get in that exercise and make healthy dietary choices. Mindless snacking, craving high calorie and high fat foods are often triggered by lack of sleep thanks to hormone leptin, who's levels drop, leaving us hungry and fighting against food cravings we normally wouldn't feel so challenged by. Craving a bag of Doritos or Oreos? Try taking a nap instead!
Feeling sleep challenged? Try establishing a regular bedtime routine. Going to bed and waking at the same time most days of the week, shutting down electronics at least 30min. before heading to bed, engaging in a light stretching activities that promote deep breathing, keeping bedroom distractions such as t.v. and other electronic devices to a minimum, and avoid caffeine after 2pm are all great places to start. If you find yourself routinely struggling with sleep, such as falling or staying asleep, contact your health care provider for more personalized options on how you can best support your body's sleep needs.
Sleep well, Live well!