Everyone needs sleep. It’s what allows the body to regulate and clean its systems and restore itself. Sleep plays a vital role in physical and mental health and leads to an overall sense of well-being. Too few people get enough rest, however. In fact, while the recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours a night, the average American adult only gets 6.8.
Here’s a list of just some of the ways that this sleep deprivation can affect your health, and how to improve your sleep habits so you can lead a healthier life.
Sleep plays a key role in repairing and healing the heart and blood vessels. A consistent lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, regardless of weight, age, or smoking habits. Getting the recommended amount of sleep can lower your chances of overworking the heart and prevent heart disease.
While you sleep, your body regulates the levels of hormones ghrelin and leptin which control feelings of hunger and fullness. When these are thrown out of balance, you’re much more likely to reach for “comfort foods,” unhealthy, and unnecessary snacks that are high in fat and carbohydrates. Quality sleep can help prevent weight gain by keeping these hormones in healthy proportions.
A lack of sleep can make your body respond as if under threat, releasing more of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can be good in certain situations, it’s what keeps your body and mind alert when in survival mode. Unnecessary and prolonged stress, however, like that which comes from sleep deprivation, can cause high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
Ever feel tired after exercising? Your body craves sleep after a workout because of its restorative nature. While you sleep, your body repairs and strengthens damaged muscle tissue. The same process also helps strengthen the body overall by rebuilding cell walls. This means that when you wake up after a workout, you’re stronger than you were when you went to sleep.
How to Improve Your Sleep Habits
- Use a memory foam mattress: Memory foam beds can mold to the body, evenly distributing weight and taking pressure off of sore muscles and aching joints. The foam should help relieve common sleep issues like back pain, and stiffness while also providing a more durable and longer-lasting mattress.
- Block your clock: Do you glance at your clock several times a night, stressed because you can’t fall asleep? This habit can make your mind race and keep you up even later. If you can’t fall asleep, try putting your clock in a drawer or turning it away so you can’t worry about the time.
- Exercise regularly: Studies have found that consistent exercise can boost sleep duration and quality. It also helps reduce stress which often makes it difficult to fall asleep.