Sleep - it definitely does the mind and body good! Sleeping is something we do every night, yet we often don't realize how much it affects our health and well-being. According to Harvard Medical School, approximately 75 percent of us experience sleep difficulties a few nights per week. While sleepless nights from time to time are okay, chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to a slew of health concerns such as high blood pressure, decreased immunity function and weight gain. Think you can get by on less than six hours of sleep at night? The following are reasons why sleep experts urge you to think again:
- Weight gain: chronic lack of sleep increases levels of the ghrelin hormone-which triggers hunger-and decreases levels of the leptin hormone-which signals fullness. As a result, you'll find yourself consuming more calories and snacking throughout the day.
- Memory: sleeping helps our brains retain the information we've learned during the day. Studies show people who sleep the recommended seven to nine hours after learning a new skill or task, do better on tests the following day than those who slept only a few hours.
- Heart health: lack of sleep can put a tremendous strain on your ticker, including increasing stress hormones, causing high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
- Immune malfunction: skimping on sleep can suppress your immune system, which in turn decreases your body's ability to fight viruses and infections.
- Mood: feeling cranky, irritable, impatient and unable to concentrate? Get more sleep and you'll find yourself able to function better and less likely to lose your temper.
- Safety: When you're tired, you tend to make a lot more mistakes, some of which can be dangerous, such as traffic accidents and workplace injuries.
- Productivity: When you get a good night's rest, your body is able to better focus on certain tasks, and the brain is able to absorb more information while learning. Additionally, you'll get through tasks quicker and make fewer mistakes when you're well-rested.
How to Get a Good Night's Rest
There's no denying the benefits of getting the recommended seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. The right mattress, pillow and bedding go a long way in helping you get the proper shut-eye. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you need to create a soothing environment for a quality night's rest. The keys to making your bedroom more hospitable to deep, productive sleep are to make it cool, dark and quiet.
- Cool it Down - The National Sleep Foundation found that temperature-regulating clothing, such as cooling pajamas, can significantly improve sleep, even when they lower the body temperature by a single degree. To help prevent overheating, try Cool-jam's collection of cooling pajamas. You can also use temperature-regulating sheet sets, mattress pads, pillows and more to help keep your environment cool and more hospitable to a quality night of rest.
- Keep it Dark - Make sure that you're completely free of unwanted distractions and sleep disruptions by making your bedroom a dark, light-deprived sanctuary. You can achieve this any time of day when you hang UV-blocking blackout curtains. You may also consider painting the walls in your bedroom a dark shade and choosing low-lumen light bulbs with dimmers.
- Keep it Quiet - Because sounds are the No. 1 contributor to interrupted sleep, it's best to get into the habit of falling asleep without the TV or radio on. With that being said, experts from the National Sleep Foundation agree that it's okay to fall asleep to ambient noises, such as a running fan, if it helps you get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Keep it Electronics-Free - Although some recent studies suggest that subtle mental stimulation, such as reading a book, may help you fall asleep factor, it's best to skip the bright smartphone or TV screen as you're winding down in order to prepare the brain and body for rest.