It used to be that sleep was seen as a sign of weakness. How many times have you heard something to the tune of, “I only got four hours last night and I feel fine!”. It was deemed a positive quality to be able to go without sleep for extended periods of time. But it turns out that this bravado is dangerous. Not only does sleep help us feel rested, it’s vitally important for our mental and physical wellbeing. While an incredibly small slice of society exists that can function on minimal amounts of sleep, for most of us a sleep dearth is detrimental.

The Effects of Lack of Sleep

Exactly how bad is sleep deprivation? One study recently found that getting less than six hours of sleep a night could cause the same long-term damage as alcohol abuse. In the short term sleep loss can be damaging to your cognitive processes in a big way, impairing your attention, critical reasoning, concentration and problem solving. In terms of physical health sleep deprivation greatly increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, getting a stroke and contracting diabetes, not to mention killing your sex drive.

The Benefits of Sleep

According to the Sleep Foundation the ideal amount of sleep is generally between 7 – 9 hours for the average adult, although everyone is different. There are numerous benefits of sleeping adequately. On the surface level, you’ll be happier; feeling rested generally means you’ll feel less irritable throughout your day. For athletes, sleep enables you to build muscle more easily as this is the time when your body replenishes its cells and releases growth hormones. And lastly it’s good for your cognitive abilities, improving concentration and short-term memory.

How to Get Better Sleep

Create a restful sleep environment

Sleeping well isn’t just about getting enough sleep, it’s about getting enough of the right quality sleep. There are numerous ways to achieve this.

Your bedroom environment has a huge effect on the quality of sleep you get. The temperature of the room should be regulated to avoid overheating and tossing and turning during the night. Keep the room dark with limited exposure to bright lights, and avoid blue light-emitting screens such as smartphones before bedtime.

And finally, invest in a firm mattress that will support your body. Considering that this is something you’ll spend a third of your life lying on, spending money on a mattress is a worthwhile investment. After all, a poor quality mattress can result in a number of different pains in one’s back. When it comes to choosing a mattress, be sure to do some research and read reviews . Look out for certain sellers like Eve, who actually allow you to order your mattress online without having to visit a physical store, and offer free returns.

Eat well

If you’re the type of person who enjoys one too many takeaways per week, changing your eating habits for healthier, home cooked food will have a dramatic effect on your healthy and ultimately your sleep. In the same vein, staying hydrated throughout the day is also necessary to avoid your mouth and nasal passages becoming dry.

Exercise and stay active

Going hand in hand with nutrition, physical exercise can impact the quality of the sleep you get every night. Tiring your body out before bedtime ensures you’ll fall asleep more quickly. One study found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week resulted in significant improvements in sleep.

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