THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP - 4 TIPS FOR MORE ZZZ'S
We’ve all heard the importance of getting those eight hours of sleep, but how many of us actually take it seriously? The average American today gets roughly 6 hours of sleep a night. Compare that to the 1900's when most people were averaging 9 hours and you get an overworked, under-rested population with more sleep-related health issues than ever before.
"That old, “you can sleep when you’re dead,” mantra might actually kill you."
Sleep for the Brain Gains
Most of us probably remember staying up into the early hours of the morning studying for exams just to wake up and barely pass the test. This is largely because a lack of sleep actually decreases the potential for learning and memory in the brain. Not to mention the extreme irritability and moodiness as well as impairing decision-making that we experience when we don’t get enough sleep. When it comes to sleep and aging, it’s shown that getting consistent deep sleep in younger years is preventative or at least proactive in slowing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep is easily the most effective and affordable strategy out there for mental performance enhancement.
Sleep for Your Sex Life
The sexiest benefit of getting a full night’s sleep? A healthy libido! Less than 6 hours of sleep is proven to decrease reproductive health in both men and women. Men who get only 4-5 hours of sleep each night see a 10-15% reduction in resting testosterone levels. Women also experience a drop in testosterone as well as rising cortisol levels. These hormonal shifts lead to low energy and an even lower sex drive. On the other hand, when a couple gets just one extra hour of sleep each night the chances of sex dramatically increase.
Sleep Because You Need To
Sleep affects every single system in the body. The extra hour of sleep provided by daylight savings time reduces heart attacks by 21%, showing the incredible effect of sleep on the cardiovascular system. When it comes to the immune system, one study showed that participants restricted to 4 hours of sleep for just one night saw a 70% reduction in natural killer cells, the immune system agents responsible for protecting the body by destroying unnatural cell masses. This study led to the discovery of a link between short sleep duration and various forms of cancer. In other studies, lack of sleep showed an upregulation in genes associated with chronic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, stress, and tumor growth.
How to Improve Your Sleep
By now you may be a little worried and wondering how you can improve your sleep to ultimately improve your overall health.
Start by regulating the hours that you sleep. Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. Setting this routine for your body will improve both the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Next, keep it cool. Your body needs to reduce its core temperature for deep sleep, so drop the thermostat and watch your sleep improve!
Another tip is to skip the devices. Turn off the TV and computer, put your phone on night-mode or even stash it away at least an hour before bed. Use only orange light in the house after dark or try blue-light blockers if you need to work late.
Finally, get some movement in. A workout is sure to help you get a more deep and meaningful night of sleep.
These are just a few ways to improve your nights and prevent the negative outcomes of missing sleep. Studies have shown that less sleep is linked to a shorter lifespan. Averaging less than eight hours a night is linked to increased all-cause mortality across the board. For example, when we gain an hour of sleep during daylight saving time, there is a 20% reduction in suicides, heart attacks, and even car accidents. Getting enough sleep doesn’t make you weak or lazy. Sleep is not a luxury, it’s a nonnegotiable, biological necessity. So turn off the lights, turn down the temperature, and get those Zzz’s!