Though people seem to understand the importance of sleep for mental and physical health on an intellectual level, Americans are still not getting the recommended amount. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have classified this dangerous fact as a public health problem. This is absolutely NOT surprising considering the potential harm one person’s sleep deprivation can cause on a micro as well as macro scale.
Why It’s Important to Understand the Importance of Sleep
Those of us who have been unfortunate enough to experience long bouts of sleep deprivation can vouch for its maddening symptoms. Some of the more common ones include mind fog, lingering fatigue, disorientation, as well as difficulty forming coherent thoughts and sentences. These could be accompanied by irrational thoughts, mood swings, high susceptibility to stress, and chronic irritability. But that’s not all. These symptoms also tend to create a ripple effect.
In a lot of cases, sleeplessness can directly (or indirectly) instigate personal and work-related issues that could further negatively impact the life of the afflicted individual. It can also impact the community to which he or she belongs. The truth is, a shocking number of annual vehicle crashes, medical errors, occupational mistakes, and other accidents result from sleep deprivation. And yet, as of 2013, just 40% of Americans reported getting the recommended number of hours of sleep per night. That’s almost half of our population!
People with chronic sleep problems are significantly more likely to suffer from additional health issues such as depression, anxiety, hypertension, diabetes, and poor quality of life. They are also a lot more likely to have slower metabolisms, which may increase their chances of developing different types of cancer and/or other immunodeficiency disorders. In other words, it is crucial for the public to truly understand the importance of sleep for mental and physical health, and treat it accordingly.
How to Sleep Better
Now, you are hopefully wondering about how to avoid sleep deprivation and get quality snooze time. First, you need to understand the simple fact that there is no one solution that will fit every individual. That’s because how much sleep we tend to need greatly varies at different points in our lives. For example, according to The National Institute of Health, school-age kids need at least ten hours of sleep to function at optimum capacity. Alternatively, adults – including the elderly – require about seven to eight hours of shut-eye a night.
The good news is, regardless of your age, there are a number of strategies that have been proven to be effective against occasional or chronic sleep issues. You can start by minimizing the amount of contact you have with digital screens before bedtime. Put your phone away, turn off the TV, and stay away from bright light 20-45 minutes before going to sleep as the light disrupts your body’s natural production of melatonin.
Stack Up on Melatonin. STAT.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring compound found in microbes, plants, and animals that help improve the sleep-wake cycle by regulating your circadian rhythms. It’s produced by a small endocrine gland positioned in the center of the brain but outside the blood-brain barrier called the pineal gland. With age, its capability to produce melatonin decreases, which often contributes to insomnia that’s common among older people. But, you can obtain natural melatonin by eating certain foods such as tart cherries and Goji berries, among others.
Melatonin production varies throughout the day. For example, when light hits the retina while it’s light out, melatonin production is inhibited. The onset of evening triggers its production, which promotes sleep by causing drowsiness and lowering the body temperature. That’s why taking melatonin a few hours before bedtime can trigger what’s commonly referred to as the phase response curve. It shifts the circadian clock, in effect promoting earlier sleep onset and wakefulness in the morning.
Schedule Sleep! We’re Not Kidding.
The next thing you should do is create and stick to a sleep schedule. Get in the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same times, day in and day out. Yes, even on the weekend since habits have to be consistent. Much like how those of us with scheduled lunch hours tend to get hungry around the same time every day, you will get sleepy at the same time every evening.
Sweat Out the Sleeplessness. It Helps.
Finally, those who truly understand the importance of sleep make exercise a daily part of their lives. Though exercise can boost your energy, improve focus and heighten alertness, it can also do wonders for your sleep. That’s right, it does way more than just gets you into shape. Exercise has the amazing ability to change your brain chemistry, alleviate symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, promote self-esteem and self-worth, lower body weight, improve heart health, and promote circulation.
But, exercise also tends to trigger an increase in body temperature. It’s a well-known fact that a good workout can make you sleepy. That’s because the post-exercise drop in temperature may promote falling asleep. However, it’s important to note that exercising before bed is not recommended. Make sure to get your workout in during the first part of the day for optimum health benefits and regular sleep. Doing a bunch of sit-ups before bed will only create the opposite effect.
At Merkaela, we strive to provide you with comprehensive information about health, wellness, and general wellbeing. As getting sufficient sleep is critical to our overall quality of life, we believe it is utterly important that you understand the importance of sleep for mental and physical health. For more information about check out our post about Healthy Sleep Habits.
[…] an earlier post, we explained to our community the importance of sleep for mental and physical health and how sleep deprivation can lead to maddening symptoms, […]
[…] “Those of us who have been unfortunate enough to experience long bouts of sleep deprivation can vouch for its maddening symptoms. Some of the more common ones include mind fog, lingering fatigue, disorientation, as well as difficulty forming coherent thoughts and sentences. These could be accompanied by irrational thoughts, mood swings, high susceptibility to stress, and chronic irritability. But that’s not all. These symptoms also tend to create a ripple effect.”http://blog.merkaela.com/do-you-understand-the-importance-of-sleep/ […]
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