When a healthy lifestyle is discussed, the most common factors mentioned are the need for a healthy diet and regular exercise, and to stop the smoking and drinking habits. Seldom do we include adequate and sound sleep to maintain our physical and mental wellness. To make matters worse, contemporary society looks upon people who sleep little as good and industrious performers while sleeping is interpreted as being lazy.
Sleep is usually left out when talking about the fundamental practices to achieve life longevity and wellbeing. Even doctors and other healthcare professionals fail to bring it up in their advice to their patients for lifestyle changes. Yet, it is right up there on the level of importance with water, a nutritious diet, regular physical activity and stress coping mechanisms. Sleep allows your body to rest after the business of a day is done. It is its opportunity to recharge and repair and ideally, sleep should last for seven to nine uninterrupted hours.
Learn more about sleep, the often overlooked factor if you want to live longer, reduce your risks for illnesses and enhance good moods.
Five Reasons to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
1. It reduces the appetite and suppresses hunger.
When the body is deprived of sleep, it lowers the normal release of the hormone leptin, which functions to curb appetite, and increases the level of the ghrelin hormone, the appetite stimulant. Consistently sleeping for only a few hours a night therefore leads to weight gain or obesity.
2. It keeps you young looking.
Granted, the study that showed faster biological aging as a result of sleep deprivation involved older participants, why risk the chance that it could be true for younger ones, too?
3. It enhances good moods and relieves stress.
Even without scientific data, everyone will agree that getting a good night’s sleep is a mood upper, just as not sleeping enough causes irritability. But the sleep-stress link is a vicious cycle. Sleep deprivation causes stress that in turn causes insomnia. Chronic insomnia leads to depression, anxiety, poor performance in school or at work, poor memory and impaired reflex response. So the solution is to address the cause of stress first or your own perception of stress.
4. It staves off diseases.
When you sleep, your body produces more T-cells. These cells fight against invaders such as the bacteria and viruses that cause colds, flu and other acute illnesses. Habitual lack of sleep also increases the risk for dreaded chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart conditions.
5. It boosts alertness and upgrades performance.
Achieving a sleep/wake equilibrium helps maintain your alertness and subsequently your performance in any activity, be it at home, in school, at work and even in sports. Sleep deprivation makes you sluggish and lose concentration.
8 Ways to Sleep Soundly
- Stick to a regular exercise regimen but avoid overdoing it, especially on the three hours prior to your bedtime.
- Have a modest meal at least four hours before going to sleep. A too full or too hungry stomach can keep you awake. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks.
- Take a warm shower when you are ready to go to bed. Apply lavender essence to your bath for a sedating effect.
- Keep your bedroom clean, uncluttered and in cool temperature. Use soft linens on your bed and pillows. Spray your sheets with chamomile or lavender aroma since these are calming oils.
- Use dim yellow lights or turn off lights completely when going to sleep. Bright lights mimic the sun and can be glaring on the eyes.
- Avoid watching an action movie just before going to sleep. Play soothing soft music or use apps that play the sounds of waves, raindrops or wind to calm you down.
- Relax your mind, put away distressing issues and think positive thoughts of peace and gratitude. Meditate. Count sheep. A repetitive act will help you sleep faster.
If you didn't have a fitful sleep or enough sleeping hours the night before, make up for the loss by taking afternoon naps of 15 - 30 minutes. Napping restores energy and makes you ready to face the rest of the day again.
Sleep is a key factor to achieving an enhanced quality of life in its physical, psychological and cognitive aspects. If you suffer from chronic insomnia and sleep deprivation is taking its toll on your health, relationships and performance, seek the help of a healthcare professional or a mental health specialist.