By Alexis Crase, Development Specialist
On average, we spend a third of our lives asleep, and although it’s recommended that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, only about 35% get their recommended zzz’s – and chances are that at some point, you too have experienced a restless night riddled with tossing and turning.
However, did you know that aside from being irritable and exhausted, sleep deprivation can cause a multitude of physical and mental health problems, ranging from difficulty concentrating, depression, and poor coordination to high blood pressure and a weakened immune system?
If you’re one of the millions of Americans not getting enough shut-eye, below is information on the importance of sleep, as well as tips for improving your overall sleep hygiene.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
Like eating, drinking water, and breathing, sleep is essential for good health – but why? According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are 4 stages of sleep, each of which play a crucial role in keeping you healthy and well.
In stages 1 and 2, which are considered non-rapid eye movement (non-REM), your body transitions from being awake to a light sleep and your body temperature drops; you also become disengaged from your surroundings.
In stage 3, which is also considered non-REM, you achieve your deepest, most restorative sleep. Your blood pressure drops, your breathing slows, and your muscles relax – and most importantly, your blood supply to muscles increases, tissue growth and repair occurs, hormones are released, and overall energy is restored.
Finally, your body settles into REM sleep (stage 4), which occurs approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. In this stage, your body relaxes but your brain is active, which leads to dreams – your eyes also dart back and forth during this stage, hence the name rapid eye movement.
In addition to the health benefits of each individual stage of sleep, your body also needs a full, restful night’s sleep in order to maintain a healthy immune system and blood sugar level, and regulate hormones, including ones that help us monitor our feelings of hunger and fullness. Sleep also helps keep our minds sharp, our hearts healthy, and our moods stable. Let’s face it – without a good night’s sleep, your body and your mind will suffer dramatically.
How to Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Given how vital sleep is to your overall health and wellness, it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene so that you get plenty of quality sleep each night. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, making sure your bedroom is dark and a comfortable temperature, removing electronic devices that emit blue light, such as cell phones, computers, and TV, and avoiding large meals and exercise close to bedtime are all habits that can help you achieve a good night’s sleep.
Other tips for restful sleep include:
- Limit caffeine intake and avoid consuming any in the 4-6 hours before bed
- Avoid smoking before bedtime or during the night when you awake
- Avoid alcohol consumption close to bedtime
- Get regular exercise during the day
- Limit naps to 20-minutes maximum to avoid sleep interruption later on
- Don’t use your bed for leisure activities, such as reading or watching TV
If you still need a little extra TLC to get your daily zzz’s, you can also try a pre-bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities, such as a warm bath or shower, or meditation – and if that still doesn’t work, consider consulting your doctor.
For additional information on the importance of sleep and good sleep hygiene, visit:
If you or someone you know is experiencing sleep issues, call our appointment line today to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care clinicians. (510) 770-8040
To keep in touch with Tri-City Health Center, click here.