Every­one knows that eat­ing healthy, get­ting exer­cise, lim­it­ing alco­hol intake, and not smok­ing leads to a healthy lifestyle. Did you know that sleep is also an impor­tant part of main­tain­ing a healthy lifestyle? With 1/3 of our life­time being spent sleep­ing, this part of our life must take impor­tance. Let’s delve into why sleep is impor­tant and what you can do to improve this area of your life.

 

No Snooze, You Lose

At dif­fer­ent stages in our life, we require dif­fer­ent amounts of sleep. From birth to 4‑years old, tod­dlers need about 11–14 hours of sleep. They are grow­ing and learn­ing both cog­ni­tive­ly and emo­tion­al­ly and this takes lots of ener­gy. To restore that ener­gy that is expend­ed dur­ing these active tod­dler years, they require lots of sleep! School-age chil­dren are some of the most active humans on the plan­et. Being at school from 8–3 every­day real­ly wears their lit­tle bod­ies out. Because of their activ­i­ty, these chil­dren need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night. As they grow into their teen years, kids need 8–10 hours. And, as adults, we need 7–9 sol­id hours of sleep a night.

 

Why?

Dur­ing our rest­ful time of sleep, our bod­ies are hard at work restor­ing, reju­ve­nat­ing, grow­ing mus­cle, repair­ing tis­sue, and syn­the­siz­ing hor­mones. To say the least, our bod­ies are nev­er at rest. When we are awake and mov­ing, we are busy pro­cess­ing stim­uli, con­vert­ing calo­ries to ener­gy, and grow­ing, to name a few basic func­tions.  When we sleep, these process­es con­tin­ue but our body also does the intri­cate work of strength­en­ing our immune sys­tem, fight­ing dis­ease and infec­tion, and pro­cess­ing the day’s emo­tions through dreams. Sci­en­tists say the ben­e­fits of good sleep include:

  • Sharp­er brain
  • Health­i­er heart
  • Low­er blood pressure
  • Weight con­trol
  • Mood boost­ers
  • Stead­ier blood sugar

 

Rhythm Sec­tion

To get the opti­mized ben­e­fits of sleep you have to get your body in the cor­rect cir­ca­di­an rhythm.  Accord­ing to the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, “Cir­ca­di­an rhythms direct a wide vari­ety of func­tions from dai­ly fluc­tu­a­tions in wake­ful­ness to body tem­per­a­ture, metab­o­lism, and the release of hor­mones.  They con­trol your tim­ing of sleep and cause you to be sleepy at night and your ten­den­cy to wake in the morn­ing with­out an alarm.  Your body’s bio­log­i­cal clock, which is based on a rough­ly 24-hour day, con­trols most cir­ca­di­an rhythms.  Cir­ca­di­an rhythms syn­chro­nize with envi­ron­men­tal cues (light, tem­per­a­ture) about the actu­al time of day, but they con­tin­ue even in the absence of cues.” Stim­u­lants like cof­fee and ener­gy drinks, alarm clocks, and even exter­nal lights can inter­fere with this rhythm and there­fore have a neg­a­tive impact on your over­all health.

 

How?

To get the best sleep and the right amount of sleep, you need to opti­mize that cir­ca­di­an rhythm. Here are some tips:

  1. Stick to a con­sis­tent sched­ule of both bed­time AND waketime
  2. Go for a morn­ing walk—getting your body up and mov­ing when it wakes up from overnight sleep helps reset your rhythm.
  3. Lim­it evening technology 
    1. bright lights con­fuse the brain into believ­ing it’s still daytime
    2. blue lights—specifically in lap­tops and cellphones—should be turned off with­in 2 hours of bedtime

 

Under­stand­ing the impor­tance of and the ben­e­fits from a good night’s sleep will help you pri­or­i­tize this task each day. Start doing the basic work of set­ting a con­sis­tent bed­time and build up to turn­ing off that cell­phone game ear­ly.  You can’t afford to skimp on sleep—your body depends on it!