In this fast paced world that most of us live in, trading some precious sleep in order to accomplish one more task, might sound like a good idea, until we realize the cost of doing so. Getting the right amount of sleep is essential to maintain good health, and although the actual hours of sleep needed vary by age and quality of sleep, most adults should be getting approximately eight hours of sleep every night. A solid eight hours of quality sleep can yield benefits that include a more energetic body, improved health, good mood, enhanced creativity, quicker physical reflexes, stable, healthy weight, higher work productivity, emotional stability and overall general happiness.
Quality of sleep is very important. And since sleep works in cycles, to receive the maximum benefits, it is vital that a person spends enough time in the deep sleep and REM stages. If too little time is spent at these stages, sleep will not yield the desired benefits, no matter the number of hours spent sleeping.
The consequences of too little, low quality sleep:
Sleep deprivation is said to lead to a weakened immune system, making a person more easily susceptible to illness. It can also interfere with concentration, memory, hand-eye coordination and reflexes. In fact, people who drive in a sleep deprived state actually experience the same kind of challenges as those impaired from alcohol consumption. Not getting the right amount of sleep can also interfere with mood, as too little sleep can lead to depression. Sleeping too much can also have negative effects, one of which can be increased mortality.
Getting too little sleep creates a sleep deficit, which is the difference between the hours of sleep a person gets and the hours of sleep a person needs. Once gone, you cannot get it back, even if you plan to sleep in on weekends. The only way to prevent sleep deprivation is to practice good sleeping habits to ensure quality sleep every day.
Tips for a restful night’s sleep:
1) Start getting ready for bed at the same time every night. Being on a sleep schedule is not only a good healthy habit, but sets the internal clock to let your body know it’s time to quit for the day.
2) Prepare your body and mind by dimming the lights and slowing down on activities a few minutes before crawling into bed. Reading is a great way to relax your mind and body.
3) Don’t eat before going to bed, but if you can’t avoid the craving, eat only a couple of small bites. It takes energy for your body to digest food, so if you eat before going to bed, your body is working and not resting.
4) Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Although alcohol may make you feel tired at first, it is considered a stimulant and can cause you to wake up during the night.
5) Try to establish a comfortable sleep environment. If you’re a person who tends to sleep cold, a heated mattress pad or electric blanket is a great investment. When you’re cold you tend to wake up more often and your body is less likely to enter the REM sleep stage. On the other hand, an air conditioner in warmer climates is very helpful in maintaining the correct body temperature.
6) Keep your room dark until it’s time to wake up. Invest in heavy curtains or room darkening shades. The darker it is, the better you will sleep, guaranteed.
7) If you are waking up with back or neck pain, it may be time to invest in a good mattress and/or pillow. Proper body alignment while sleeping is crucial in obtaining a restful night’s sleep, as well as to your overall physical well being.