It is essential for our health and well-being that we get enough sleep. Studies have shown that sleep is as important to our health as exercising and eating well. Unfortunately, very few of us get the adequate amount of sleep our bodies need to thrive.
There are many reasons why we’re not getting the right amount or quality of sleep, these include:
- Consuming too much caffeine or alcohol – although alcohol can make you feel drowsy it is a stimulant similar to caffeine and can make it difficult to fall asleep and to have a restful sleep.
- Sleep interruptions – if you’re a light sleeper, have a partner that snores or if you move a lot while you sleep, you are more likely to wake up during the night.
- Work schedules – shift workers in particular record having difficulties syncing their sleep cycle to their work schedule and many struggle to sleep more than a few hours at a time.
- Eating and drinking before bed – consuming food or drinks before bed can cause indigestion or bloating which may make it harder to fall asleep due to the discomfort. Needing to get up to use the restroom is also a major cause for restless nights.
- Stress and overstimulation – relaxing and winding down help our bodies prepare for restful sleep, if we’re stressed or overstimulated, we will have trouble falling and staying asleep.
- Medical conditions – there are many medical conditions including sleep disorders that may affect both your ability to sleep and the quality of your sleep.
Or perhaps we simply take sleep for granted and don’t realise the important functions our bodies conduct while we rest. During deep sleep, your body works to repair muscle, organs, and other cells. Chemicals that strengthen your immune system start to circulate in your blood and your brain forms and manages the neurological connections that are your memories.
Here are seven other reasons why sleep is so important:
- Concentration and productivity
A good night’s sleep can improve our ability to focus, problem-solve and enhances our memories while also encourages cognitive brain function.
- Emotional and mental health
Sleep increases positive emotions such as relaxation and contentment and has shown to reduce feelings of helplessness and disconnect. Sleep has also been linked to social intelligence and our ability to recognise other people’s emotions.
- Heart and brain health
There is believed to be a correlation between sleeping less than 7–8 hours per night and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Some studies suggest that the amount of restful sleep we have throughout our younger years may reduce the chance of dementia.
- Weight and calorie management
A lack of sleep may affect a person’s desire or ability to maintain a healthful lifestyle thus leading to weight management issues. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can interfere with our bodies ability to regulate food intake correctly.
- Athleticism and recovery
Sleep can enhance your athletic speed, accuracy and reaction time as well as promoting faster healing time for muscle and joint injuries.
- Reduces inflammation
Studies have shown that while we sleep, our body reduces inflammation and works to repair damaged cells.
- Sex drive
When the body becomes stressed because of sleep difficulties, the brain suppresses the production of sex. This shift in hormone levels can lead to decreased sex drive, infertility, or erectile dysfunction.
Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health.