The value of getting a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated. Getting enough sleep and getting good sleep quality can vastly improve your physical and mental health. Think back to a time when you were consistently getting lackluster sleep. Your mental well being was probably, along with how you physically felt, too. Inadequate sleep is connected to a number of medical conditions and health problems, so it is essential for everyone to introduce good sleep into their daily lives, because the benefits of practicing better sleep hygiene are practically endless.
In this article, we will dive into six ways sleep impacts your life, and introduce tips to create good sleep hygiene, and by proxy, your life as a whole.
6 Ways Sleep Impacts Your Life
As mentioned, getting enough quality sleep can improve your life, while a lack of sleep can lead to a number of problems. Below, we’ll go over six important ways that sleep impacts your life.
1) Your Physical Health
One of the biggest reasons sleep is so important is because it can drastically affect your health. Along with an increased risk of infection and obesity, a lack of sleep puts you at a higher risk for a number of conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
When you sleep, your blood pressure drops. Poor sleep results in high blood pressure, and puts you at an increased risk for coronary heart disease.
Sleep deprivation changes how your body reacts to glucose, and may cause spikes in glucose and insulin that can lead to type two diabetes.
Also, Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert, explains in an article that the causes of death are complex, and that laboratory animals will die if they are sleep deprived for long enough. Although scientists may not totally understand all of the mechanisms that surround sleep and bodily health and well being, it is very clear that sleep plays a huge role in physical health.
2) Your Mental Health and Focus
Both undersleeping and oversleep can impact your mental health and focus.
Sleep deficiency can lead to a number of mental health problems. Depression is a common mental health issue that is linked to both undersleeping and oversleeping. Furthermore, sleep deprived individuals are at a higher risk of suicide.
In addition, a 2021 sleep study found that improving sleep quality improves mental health. The relationship between mood and mental health and sleep are closely tied. Not getting enough sleep can lead to depression, anxiety, and a poor mood, while getting high quality sleep does the opposite, and supports a healthy mind.
In addition to improving mental health, getting enough sleep also improves focus and alertness. If you’ve ever had a night of poor sleep, and had to pay attention to something, whether it be work or school, you’re probably aware of the relationship between sleep and attention/focus. Sleep supports your attentiveness and ability to focus, while poor sleep does the opposite.
3) Your Learning and Problem Solving
Your ability to learn and solve problems are impacted by sleep.
Learning and Memory
Did you know that sleep is an essential part to learning and memory? If you’ve ever heard a teacher or parent tell you that it’s better to get some sleep the night before a test than pull an all-nighter and cram, they may very well be right. This is because one of the three functions of learning and memory is consolidation, which occurs while you sleep.
In addition, research shows that lacking sleep leads to overworked neurons, which in turn make it difficult to effectively process and recall information. Therefore, if you’re in school, studying for a test, preparing for a meeting, or just want to foster learning and memory in your everyday life, you should make adequate sleep a priority.
Furthermore, since we mentioned pulling all-nighters, it is important to note that getting an occasional sleepless night, while it may be somewhat normalized, is not healthy. Sleep debt cannot be paid back, and it is generally disproven that it is okay to lack sleep one night, if you make it up the next.
Research also shows that a loss of sleep impedes our ability to make sound decisions, and negatively impacts our problem-solving ability. On top of this, nighttime sleep may help us to discover creative solutions to problems during the day.
Researchers have also found correlations between slow wave sleep and REM sleep and visual learning, along with the type of memory that affects remembering how to do things, called procedural memory.
Lastly, a 2021 study showed exactly how getting good sleep affects and facilitates problem-solving in people. The study tested two groups on a problem-solving game. The first group was given a 10-hour interval for nocturnal sleep, and the second group was given a 10-hour interval during the day when they were awake. 62% of participants in group one solved the problem, while only 24% of people in group two solved it.
4) Your Immunity
While you sleep, components of your immune system increase, such as t-cells and cytokines. Losing sleep can therefore decrease the effectiveness of your immune response to viruses and infection. Furthermore, being regularly sleep deprived has been tied to increased levels of inflammation, which can be responsible for a number of medical conditions. Therefore, getting enough sleep every night will keep your immune system strong, reduce inflammation, and make sure your body is prepared to fight off any infection.
5) Your Weight
Did you know your body burns calories while you sleep? It’s true, we burn about 50 calories every hour. That’s because your body is hard at work maintaining itself while we sleep, and as you may have guessed already, a lot is happening inside you while you’re asleep.
In addition, sleep deprivation increases cravings of sugars and fatty foods that are easily quickly digestible, and give you energy fast.
Not only does sleep deprivation make it more challenging to make healthy diet choices, but it also affects hormones in the body that are linked to appetite. For example, ghrelin is a hormone that makes you feel hungry, and leptin makes you feel full. When you lack sleep, your grehlin levels increase, and your leptin levels decrease, making you hungrier, and less likely to feel full. This is why a lack of sleep is linked closely to obesity.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains that the sleep deprived people are at a higher risk of getting into an accident and injuring themselves and others. They reported that in 2017, 91,000 crashes (in the United States) were a result of drowsy driving. Sleep loss can reduce reaction time, and can cause you to fall asleep at the wheel.
Furthermore, a 2017 Deloitte study shows that sleep deprivation can increase your physical safety, and risk of injury in almost any situation, whether it be at work, at home, or driving, due to slower reaction time, along with other factors.
Tips to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
The good news is you can positively impact the ways sleep impacts your life by applying good sleep habits and sleep hygiene tips.
Follow a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is very important. It will help you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You should try to keep this schedule, even if you’ve had a sleepless night. If you’re an adult between the ages of 18 and 60, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you get 7 or more hours of sleep.
However, many experts agree that seven to eight hours of sleep is ideal for adults, because just like undersleeping, oversleeping is bad as well. Exactly how much sleep you need is dependent on a number of factors, but it is important to get that amount every night, once you figure it out. Also, sleeping the same amount every night will ensure that you stay on the same schedule. Oversleeping one day can make falling asleep at the same time that night more difficult.
You may be thinking after the last tip that it is difficult to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day due to social obligations, for example. However, if you truly want to maintain better sleep hygiene, you have to find a way to prioritize sleep. This may mean leaving social events early, or missing some entirely, or perhaps coordinating with friends and family, in order to put your sleep schedule first.
Napping during the day can make it difficult to follow asleep at night, especially if you are napping later in the day, or sleeping longer than 20 minutes when you nap. Therefore, try to keep your naps short and earlier in the day, rather than later, and never nap late in the day. If you find you can’t do this, try to cut out naps altogether. If you are sleeping enough, you shouldn’t need to nap during the day.
Develop Healthy Habits
Exercising and eating healthy improves sleep quality, and makes falling asleep and staying asleep easier. Furthermore, smoking and drinking alcohol negatively impacts sleep, so if you are feeling tired, and not getting the proper sleep duration to feel good during the day, you may want to cut down on or cut out drinking and smoking altogether.
Create a Relaxing Sleeping Environment
Making sure your bedroom is primed for sleep can vastly improve your quality of sleep, and make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. If bright lights or outside noise are affecting your sleep, consider using a white noise machine, or playing calming noises at night to block out the sound of loud neighbors or cars.
Getting better blinds or black-out curtains will prevent sleep interruptions by passing cars or streetlights, and can aid you in getting more restorative sleep. Also, consider the temperature of your sleep environment. Sleeping in a cold or hot environment can negatively impact your sleep; the ideal temperature for most people is between 60 to 67 degrees Farenheit.
Sleep on a Comfortable Mattress
Sleeping on a comfortable mattress is essential for getting better sleep. If you’ve ever slept at a friend's house, or a hotel with an uncomfortable mattress, you may have noticed how it affects your sleep, and deprives you of getting a good night’s rest. However, some people may get used to their own mattress, even if it is not the ideal mattress for them. Finding the right mattress for you can greatly improve your sleep, and make it easier to stay asleep, fall asleep, and wake up feeling alert and refreshed.
Check out Latex For Less mattresses to find a comfortable, natural, and affordable mattress that is right for you. Once you make the switch, you’ll immediately begin to reap the rewards that come from having a high-quality mattress that is comfortable, and supports your body, giving you a good night’s rest every night for many years to come.