1. Home
  2. /
  3. Sleep
  4. /
  5. Is Sleep Really That...

Is Sleep Really That Important to Health?

Woman waking up

7 March 2021 | Tags: Immune System, Mental Wellness, Stress Management, Weight Management

What Sleep Does for You

In today’s fast-paced world, sleep can be regarded as a luxury…or even a waste of time.  However, the research is clear that skimping on sleep can be harmful.  Sleep well and sleep enough…and you will live a happier, healthier and longer life. It’s as simple as that!

According to sleep experts and neuroscientists at the US National Institute of Health, “Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness and mood. (…) It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.” 

The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School conclude that,

“the cost of poor sleep is much greater than many people think: it may have profound consequences for our long-term health.  Treating sleep as a priority, rather than a luxury, may be an important step in preventing a number of chronic medical conditions.”

The research is clear – lack of sleep increases the risk for heart disease, obesity, and infections. It also has a profound impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing, and in particular, your ability to deal with stress in your life.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health.  Notwithstanding, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to stay healthy.

If you want to enjoy the maximum restorative benefits of sleep for your body as well as your brain, you must get a full night of quality sleep and on a regular basis. This means that you cannot burn the candle on both ends during the week, and then try to catch up on your sleep on the weekend.  Whilst you may feel better after more rest, you cannot gain back the health benefits of regular sufficient sleeping.

OUR TIPS to Improve Your Heart Health Today

Getting enough good sleep as essential to your health – and this means paying attention to the quantity of your sleep as well as the quality.   It is important for you to know that both of these are affected by what you do (or don’t do!) long before you go to bed. 

Man on his phone in bed
Are you guilty of taking your phone to bed with you? This is definitely a NO-NO!

For you to enjoy sufficient restorative sleep, you must practice good sleep hygiene – including:

  • Get as much physical activity as possible throughout your day. Incorporate your most strenuous activities earlier in the day, and reserve your evenings for more gentle movement such as stretching, yoga, tai-chi.
  • Be mindful of what you eat and drink during the day, and especially in the evening / before bedtime.  Avoid heavy or spicy or sour foods before bedtime; and if you consume caffeinated drinks, have your last one by early/mid-afternoon so that your body has enough time to break down the caffeine ahead of your sleep.
  • Manage your exposure to blue light as this can disrupt your natural sleep cycle. More than any other colour, blue light suppresses your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone which regulates your wakeful/sleepy cycle.  Make sure therefore that you expose yourself to natural light, especially in the early mornings; and reduce your exposure to the blue light coming from the screens of your digital devices by the evening.
  • Pay attention to your sleeping environment – make it as inviting and comfortable as possible, so that you look forward to bedtime.  Remove all devices (and yes, this includes the TV!); and make your bedroom a place reserved for sleep, sex, and relaxation.  Nothing more.
  • Develop a regular bedtime routine which allows you to wind down and disconnect from the busy’ness of the day…and prepares your body and mind for sleep. 

And if possible, take a nap during the day when you feel yourself becoming sluggish.  Even a short sleep will energise your body and your mind.  There is reason why some cultures have the siesta so enshrined in their psyche that they pretty much come to a stop mid-/late-afternoon. Think Spain, Italy, Greece, the Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and China…

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” – Irish Proverb