Why Sleep is Important for Your Health

Most people can appreciate the value of sleeping well and enjoy feeling refreshed after getting a good night’s sleep. Conversely, just about everyone strives to avoid getting a poor night’s sleep and the associated feeling of fatigue. Even though most of us are aware of many of the advantages of sleeping well, many of us fail to get quality sleep on a consistent basis.

To best understand the importance of sleep, you should view the human body as a factory that performs several essential functions. As you fall asleep, your body starts to perform the following tasks:

  • Recovering from the activities you engaged in during the day
  • Healing damaged cells
  • Revitalizing your cardiovascular system and heart for the next day
  • Stimulating your immune system

Here is some information about the importance of sleep for your health, and how you can regularly enjoy quality sleep.

How Does Sleep Work?

It is helpful to understand how sleep works when learning about its importance. The two main types of sleep are as follows: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep mainly consists of slow wave or deep sleep. Dreams usually occur during REM sleep. Both types of sleep occur in a consistent pattern throughout the night. Generally, there are three to five cycles of non-REM and REM sleep.

How you feel when you wake up depends on the amount of total sleep as well as the amount of each type of sleep. Your ability to feel well-rested and fully functional after sleeping also depends on the time of the day at which you fell asleep. It is important to go to sleep at a time when your body is ready.

Everyone has an internal body clock that determines when you are prepared for sleep. In most people, this clock follows a circadian rhythm, which is a 24-hour repeating rhythm. This circadian rhythm impacts every cell in your body and how they function.

If you fail to get enough quality sleep at the right times, you will probably feel very drained during the day. Also, you probably won’t feel alert or refreshed when you awake. As you may know from experience, sleep deficiency can interfere with driving, work, school and even social functioning. Many people who don’t sleep well have trouble reacting, learning and focusing. Sleep deprivation can also impact your ability to judge emotions and reactions. Finally, sleep deficiency makes many people more prone to feeling negative emotions like frustration in social situations.

Of course, the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation differ from person to person. For example, sleep deficient children may feel hyper instead of tired and drained and may be more prone to misbehaving.

What Is Sleep Deprivation?

One of the main reasons you should strive to sleep well is to avoid the negative effects of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation refers to a condition that occurs if you fail to get enough sleep. Some of the symptoms of sleep deprivation include the following:

  • You don’t sleep enough on a regular basis
  • Your sleeping patterns are out of sync with the natural clock of your body (sleeping at strange hours during the day)
  • You don’t get a sufficient amount of REM and non-REM sleep
  • You suffer from restless or disturbed sleep
  • You suffer from a sleep disorder that makes it difficult for you to get enough quality sleep

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The amount of sleep an individual needs changes over a lifetime. While sleep needs vary from individual to individual, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has made the following recommendations for different age groups:

  • Infants aged 4 to 12 months – 12 to 16 hours a day
  • Children aged 1 to 2 years – 11 to 14 hours a day
  • Children aged 3 to 5 years – 10 to 13 hours a day
  • Children aged 6 to 12 years – 9 to 12 hours a day
  • Teens aged 13 to 18 years – 8 to 10 hours a day
  • Adults aged 18 years or older – 7 to 8 hours a day

If you don’t sleep enough on a regular basis, the sleep loss accumulates over time. The total amount of sleep you lose can be referred to as your sleep debt. For example, if you need eight hours of sleep but only get six hours of sleep every night, your sleep debt will be 14 hours after just one week.

Some people take naps during the day to deal with the sleepiness they feel from sleep deprivation. While naps can boost performance and alertness in the short-term, they are not a long-term solution to sleep deprivation. Napping will not provide you with the advantages associated with a good night’s sleep. Since it is difficult to make up for lost sleep, you should strive to sleep well every night.

There are some individuals who sleep more on their days off from work. These individuals may also go to bed and wake up later in the day on their days off. If you’re one of these individuals, it is possible that you’re not sleeping enough. Sleeping more on your days off can disrupt your body’s sleep-wake rhythm.

How to Get Quality Sleep

Long-term sleep loss and bad sleep habits will have a negative impact on your health. Sleep is important for the healing and repair of the blood vessels and heart. Accordingly, research indicates that long-term sleep deficiency is linked with a higher risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Other studies have shown that sleep deficiency is associated with a higher risk of obesity for several age groups, such as teenagers. The plausible reason for this is that sleep helps your body maintain a good balance of hormones like leptin, which makes you feel full, and ghrelin, which makes you hungry. If you don’t sleep well enough, the levels of leptin in your body will decrease while the levels of ghrelin in your body will increase. Sleep also has an impact on the reaction of your body to insulin, which is a hormone that helps control your body’s blood glucose levels. Sleep deficiency is linked to higher blood sugar levels, which can boost your risk for diabetes.

If you feel you aren’t sleeping enough, you should try  using a sleep diary for a period of time.. Every night, write down how much sleep you get and how well-rested you feel in the morning. You should also jot down whether you feel sleepy during the day. After using your sleep diary for a few weeks or months, speak with your doctor about the results and discuss how you can improve your sleep.

Try to stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. This will help  regulate your internal clock so that you struggle less to fall asleep and remain asleep throughout the night.

Come up with a relaxing bedtime ritual and follow it religiously. Do a relaxing activity before you go to bed. You should do this activity away from bright lights to help your body distinguish sleep time from other activities that can cause anxiety, excitement or stress.

If you struggle getting a good night’s sleep, you should avoid naps. While power napping can give you the energy to help you get through the day, it can make it more difficult for you go to sleep at night.  If you absolutely must nap, avoid doing so in the afternoon.

Exercise daily to make it easier for you to fall asleep at night. Vigorous exercise will help you the most, but it is better to do light exercise than no exercise. You can exercise at any time of the day.

Finally, make sure that you’re sleeping on comfortable pillows and a quality mattress. Your mattress should be supportive and comfortable. If you’ve been sleeping on a mattress for many years, it may be time to replace it. Good quality mattresses typically last about a decade before they need to be replaced. Also, try to remove any allergens from your room if you suffer from allergies. Do anything that will make your room more inviting for sleep.

As you can see, sleep is essential for several major measures of health. If you’re looking for a thriving senior living community, contact us to learn more about how you will sleep better at  . Located in Towson, MD, outside of Baltimore, you can live your life to the fullest with new friends and our supportive staff. Learn more about our comfortable living options and quiet, yet active neighborhood, and request a tour today!