Sleep affects nearly every aspect of our lives. We feel better after a good night’s sleep but we don’t all recognize all the benefits associated with sleep. Experts still don’t fully agree on why we as humans need sleep, there are many different theories and likely a combination of them is true. Regardless of the scientific explanation for why we sleep, there are many benefits associated with sleep that the experts do agree on.
Benefits of Sleep
The benefits of sleep seem numberless, sleep affects almost every aspect of our life. Proper sleep helps your body to recover (both physically and mentally), improves your immune system, helps you retain and remember information, reduces stress, reduces inflammation, helps control body weight, decreases injury rate, decreases mood swings and elevates overall mood and quality of life.
When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information.
How Much Sleep
It is unknown still how much sleep is required for optimum health, but we do know that the exact amount of sleep depends largely on the individual and that individual’s age. It is believed that as we age, our bodies require less sleep. A new born infant would require up to 17 hours of sleep or more in a single day whereas an older adult could remain healthy with only 7 hours of sleep. The general rule of thumb of 8 hours of sleep a night seems to be a healthy amount for anyone in their teens or older. Refer to the chart to the right from the National Sleep Foundation for a good reference of required sleep by age.
Russel foster, in the Ted Talk at the bottom of this post, mentions that if you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning then you are probably not getting adequate sleep. This simple rule is a good reminder that we all cut ourselves short on sleep almost every morning when our alarm clocks have to pull us out of bed in the morning to get us to work on time.
How to Sleep Better
- Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine, and Other Chemicals that Interfere with Sleep
- Ensure Your Bedroom is Quiet, Dark and Cool
- Establish a Soothing Pre-Sleep Routine
- Don’t Be a Nighttime Clock-Watcher
- Keep Your Internal Clock Set with a Consistent Sleep Schedule, Even on Weekends
- Nap Early—Or Not at All
- Lighten Up on Evening Meals
- Balance Fluid Intake
- Exercise Early
- Turn Off Electronics Before Bed
Related TED Talks
Now that you understand the importance of sleep, and how to get a better night’s sleep, allow yourself to get some hard earned rest and recovery.