Sleep and Your Health

Do you get enough sleep each night?  On average, 40% of people do not get the proper quality shut eye they need.  Getting good sleep plays a HUGE part in your mental and physical health.  From the brain to the muscles, sleep is a crucial time that the body repairs itself so you can function and feel good during the awake times.  Here’s a quick overview on the positive benefits of getting good sleep:

  • The Brain:  When it comes the brain, sleep plays a part in learning and memory.  Sleep allows your brain to get ready for the next day so you can think, learn and remember information.  Lack of sleep can lead to increased memory loss, troubles with problem-solving, decision-making and creativity.
  • The Heart: When you sleep, your heart gets a rest from pumping so hard when you’re awake and more active.  Sleeping helps lower the blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Immune System:  Your body’s working on keep the harmful stuff OUT so you can stay healthy! When you get ill, the immune system works hard and cells regenerate during sleep to heal and repair so you can get better faster. 
  • Muscles:  Sleep is the key essential to muscle repair and recovery, especially after strenuous workouts.  Without proper sleep, your muscles cannot repair properly so you may not feel as energetic and strong during your next workout or athletic performance.
  • Mood: Long-term lack of sleep can lead to having more mood swings, lack of motivation or even depression.

How much sleep do you need?

Based on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep per night. The average teenager needs 8-10 hours.  It’s best to try and keep a regular sleep pattern and schedule even on the weekends to keep your body on a regular sleep-wake rhythm. 

Quality of Sleep.

It’s not just the total amount of sleep that’s important, but the quality of sleep you’re getting.  Without getting into too much details, Going from Non-REM (rapid eye movement) to REM sleep is a process your body goes through when you sleep at night. Most people average 45-90 minutes of deep sleep per night. At this point, your heartbeat and breathing are the slowest and even brain waves slow down. REM sleep follows and can last about 90 minutes.  There is more rapid eye movement, dreams occur, heart rate increase and breathing may not be as consistent. 

How can you get more sleep?

  • Get on a regular sleep schedule- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day (even on the weekends). Stay on a regular sleep-cycle for better consistency of sleep.
  • Stay away from caffeine and alcohol later in the day– This one totally affects my sleep!  Caffeine is a stimulant so keep try to consume only in the mornings or early afternoons.  For alcohol, the more you drink, the quality of sleep goes way down.  REM sleep is greatly affected with alcohol and can lead to sleep apnea, snoring and disruptions to the body’s circadian rhythm.  Hello, hangover! 
  • Limit screen time in the late evenings– Melatonin makes us feel sleepy when it starts to get dark outside.  Light will stimulate this, even the blue light in electronic devices and cause your body to not produce melatonin so you’re not sleepy.  Make it a habit to turn off the TV and devices at an earlier time and maybe read a book so your body can wind down and get ready for sleep. 
  • Healthy eating and regular exercise– We all know that we should eat healthier for physical and mental health, but also to help with sleep!  Have a regular exercise routine, but try not to workout too late in the day (if your schedule allows this).  The heart rate stays higher than normal after a workout, which can affect sleep.  I personally enjoy working out first thing in the morning to help wake my body up and feel energized for the rest of the day!
  • Manage Stress– Ever have those nights where you can’t sleep because your brain will not stop thinking? Whether it’s work, kids, society, deadlines, the news or whatever it may be stressing you out, this will totally affect your sleep!  I know it’s challenging to “turn your brain off” and we all have been through this.  Before bed, try to shift the focus away from any stressors and try to clear your mind.  Meditate, do a crossword puzzle, read, write in a journal or take 5-10 minutes and do mindful breathing exercises. 

Try some of these methods if you feel like you’re feeling tired and restless.  If your sleep symptoms are not getting better and absolutely nothing has worked, please consult with your doctor.   

XOXO, Ally

Resources: 

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