Sleep—Making It a Priority
In today’s hectic world, sleep seems to be one thing that often falls to the bottom of the priority list. Sure, we’re tired, and we’d like to get 8 hours of sleep (experts recommend 7–9 hours for the average adult), but there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it in! So we go to bed a little later or get up a little earlier in an effort to fit a few more things into each packed-full day.
Not a good idea, say those in the know. Although the effects of inadequate sleep are often subtle and seem insignificant, over an extended period of time, not getting enough sleep can cause serious problems.
Sleep deprivation means your immune system doesn’t have a chance to build up its forces. Inadequate sleep has been linked to headaches, weight gain, depression, and memory loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, if we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies are less likely to fend off invaders, and it could take us longer to recover from illness.
Long-term sleep deprivation raises our risk of developing chronic problems such as cardiovascular diseases or diabetes, affects our mental and physical health, and can dramatically lower our quality of life. In fact, one Harvard Medical School study reported that sleeping less than five hours a night increases the risk of death from all causes by about 15 percent.
You see, our body uses bedtime as a natural time to renew and regenerate. When we sleep, our heart and vascular system slow down and enjoy a well-deserved rest. Our blood pressure drops, breathing slows down, blood flow moves to the muscles, and tissue is repaired. Some studies show that important memory and learning pathways in the brain are formed while we’re sleeping, and new research indicates that the brain’s waste-flushing system may be up to 10 times more active while we’re grabbing a few zzz’s.
Who knew so much was happening behind closed eyelids!
Unfortunately, statistics indicate that 40 percent of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep, and approximately 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder. The sleep deprivation problem is real.
Changing those statistics can be simple as simple as changing our priorities. We’ve shared a few tips for creating habits that encourage better sleep here. Incorporating these ideas and making sure adequate sleep ranks high on our list of essential health habits can mean the difference between exhaustion and energy!