We spend so much time talking about healthy food choices and constant movement that we forget about the other main factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Sleep. That’s right, the answer to everyone’s sleep deprived prayers is here. Everyone should be focused on getting enough sleep! Besides being happy and well rested, getting a sufficient amount of sleep can decrease your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, stroke and depression. That being said, making sure that you are checking all the boxes might be a bit more complicated than you realize.
Now, what is a sufficient amount of sleep? Measuring sleep comes down to quality and quantity. Research has shown that most adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep and that people who achieve this average live the longest. Oversleeping and undersleeping can have negative effects so it’s best to find the sweet spot for your quantity of sleep and stick with it. In reference to quality, restless sleep, even if you reached the required hour length, is not as beneficial. Recent research proposes that quality sleep removes toxins from your brain that can build up while you are awake. Just like everything, finding your own personal balance is key.
Getting an insufficient amount of sleep is associated with countless problems including Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive declines such as your ability to pay attention, your working memory, reaction time and something we are all too familiar with, your mood. Now if it feels like you can’t remember the last time you got a sufficient amount of sleep, don’t panic. Your health isn’t going to suddenly and dramatically decline. Yes, you will see some of the more common side effects but the extreme problems come after years and years of poor sleeping patterns.
However, there are steps you can take to improve your sleeping habits. You can avoid late afternoon caffeinated drinks and tempting early evening naps. These can hinder your ability to fall asleep. Also, putting electronics away and having as little late-night screen time as possible and being exposed to natural light patterns can help your quality and quantity of sleep increase.