The Importance of Sleep

By Matt Prigge

Too often do we sacrifice our health on a nightly basis for one more episode of The Walking Dead, an extra 30 minutes on the iPad, or just another late night cramming for a test.  We all know that not getting enough sleep is never a good thing, but do we truly know the effects it has on our health?  Depriving yourself of sleep can have more detrimental effects on your health than you think.  So let us take a look at the effect sleep has on our mental and physical health, as well as, our daytime performance.

Sleep plays a major role in your mental health.  While you are sleeping your brain begins to form new pathways.  These pathways help you better learn and remember information [1].  While deprived of sleep, your brain activity is altered in some parts of the brain, and sleep deficiency has been linked to depression [1].

Physically depriving yourself of sleep has detrimental effects on your physical health.  While sleeping, your body is repairing its heart and blood vessels [1].  Not getting enough sleep has also been linked to kidney disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes [1].  Not only does your physical and mental health suffer, but your daytime performance as well.

Not getting an adequate amount of sleep at night has many detrimental effects on a person’s performance at school or work.  Those who do not get enough sleep at night have a slower reaction time, take longer to finish tasks, and make more mistakes [2].

Since getting a goodnight’s sleep is so vital, Harvard Health has provided 12 tips to follow for a better night’s sleep.

  • Establish a regular bedtime and a relaxing bedtime routine—examples might include taking a warm bath or listening to soothing music.
  • Use your bed only for sleeping or lovemaking. Avoid reading and watching television in bed.
  • If you can’t fall asleep after 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed and go into another room. Do something relaxing, such as reading quietly with a dim light. Don’t watch television or use a computer, since the light from their screens has an arousing effect. When you feel sleepy, get back into bed. Don’t delay your scheduled wake-up time to make up for lost sleep.
  • Get plenty of exercise. Build up to 45 minutes of moderate exercise nearly every day. Get your exercise early in the day. Try some easy stretching exercises or yoga to relax your muscles and your mind at bedtime.
  • Whenever possible, schedule stressful or demanding tasks early in the day and less challenging activities later. This helps you wind down at the end of your day.
  • Don’t go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal right before getting into bed. If you want a bedtime snack, keep it bland and light.
  • Limit caffeine and consume none after 2 p.m.
  • To decrease middle-of-the-night urination, don’t drink any fluids after dinner.
  • Avoid alcohol after dinnertime. Although many people think of it as a sedative, it can get in the way of quality sleep.
  • Be sure your bed is comfortable and your bedroom is dark and quiet. Consider a sleep mask or earplugs.
  • Don’t take long naps during the day. If you need a nap, restrict it to 20 to 30 minutes in the early afternoon.

So with all of this said, how much sleep should you be getting?  As pointed out in a Harvard Health article, your goal for sleep should be seven hours a night.  Both, too little and too much sleep can have effects on a person’s memory [2].  So be sure to skip that extra episode on Netflix, because it will always be there in the morning, however, your physical, and mental health may not.

 

References

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/little-sleep-much-affect-memory-201405027136

 

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