Updated: Oct 1
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 getting at least 7 hours of sleep a 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, wellness, and day-to-day living.
Here are 9 great reasons to get more z z z's!
1. Improve 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. Boost 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. Sharpen 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. Decrease 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. Improve 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. Reduce 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. Boost 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. Reduce 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. Empower weight loss.
When you're tired you're more 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 hormone leptin, who's levels drop, leaving you hungry and fighting against food cravings you may normally not feel so challenged by. Craving a bag of Doritos or Oreos? Try taking a nap or going for a walk 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.
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