5 Ways Good Sleep Improves Your Health
On average, you spend a third of your life sleeping. Sleep is important for powering through your day feeling energized but also for maintaining your overall health and wellbeing.
The quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity of your sleep. Here are five ways good sleep is beneficial for your health.
1. Protect Your Heart Health
Not getting enough sleep has been linked to an increased risk of death from heart attack and stroke. Even if you spend enough time sleeping each night, poor quality sleep increases your risk of developing high blood pressure.
When you get enough quality sleep each night, your body systems rest and recover so that you can function at your best. You’ll be protected from developing chronic health conditions and better able to recover if you do suffer from a heart attack or stroke.
2. Improve Your Blood Sugar
Decreased insulin sensitivity and high blood sugar lead to type 2 diabetes. Your risk of developing this serious medical condition increase when you don’t get enough quality sleep each night.
Even just a week of insufficient sleep can mess with your body’s ability to respond to insulin. If you’re getting less than 5 hours of quality sleep, your body undergoes changes to increase the amount of sugar circulating in your blood. While this sugar provides immediate energy to your overtired brain, it has detrimental effects on the other organ systems in your body.
By spending 7-8 hours in bed every night getting quality rest, you’ll improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin. This means you’ll store energy more effectively and lower your blood sugar levels. You’ll be able to protect your long-term health and prevent disease.
3. Boost Your Immune System
Your nightly sleep ritual can help you stay healthy and avoid taking sick days off from work. Sleeping less than 7 hours a night or having your sleep frequently interrupted is associated with three times greater risk of getting a cold.
Quality sleep gives your body time to build up the immune cells that are your first line of defense against viruses. If you find yourself coming down with colds more often than your friends, try getting a few more hours of sleep each night.
4. Reduce Your Weight
People who sleep less often struggle with weight gain. This is because your body’s appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin, get thrown out of balance when you don’t get enough good sleep. You feel hungrier after a night of bad sleep, making it harder to stick with a diet or eat healthy foods.
If you aren’t sleeping enough, chances are you aren’t working out enough either. When you feel tired or lack energy from poor sleep, it’s harder to find the motivation to hit the gym. The increased time spent being sedentary can add inches to your waistline.
5. Lower Inflammation
Poor sleep increases your body’s production of stress hormones, such as cortisol. When you have high levels of stress hormones, your body’s inflammatory pathway is activated. Reduced sleep time also gives your body less time to repair itself. This leads to an increased concentration of free radicals and other inflammatory particles in your blood.
Inflammation is responsible for many chronic health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease. However, high levels of inflammation can affect how you feel before developing a disease. You might find it difficult to concentrate, have more aches and pains, or have more bowel discomfort if you have high inflammation levels.
By managing your sleep habits so you can get 8 hours of good sleep every night, you’re protecting yourself from damaging inflammation that makes you feel bad and can lead to chronic disease.
How to Get Good Sleep Every Night
For some people, getting quality sleep every night is as simple as heading to bed and getting under the covers. For others, sleep is elusive and requires careful planning. Regardless of where you fall on the sleep spectrum, everyone can benefit from developing good sleep habits to ensure quality sleep every night.
A good night’s sleep starts before you head to your bedroom. Drinking alcohol or exercising close to bedtime can interrupt your sleep patterns. This leads to poor quality sleep that leaves you feeling tired the next day. Avoid exercising within two hours of bedtime and avoid drinking alcohol to help you sleep soundly at night.
The temperature of your bedroom can affect your sleep quality. Ideally, your bedroom should be kept between 65-68°F. If you feel hot when you sleep, invest in a pillow that stays cold and transfers heat away from your body.
Your bed sheets are another important factor for helping you get your best night’s sleep. Bedsheets with extremely high thread count trap heat instead of letting your body breathe. You should look for bed sheets that are soft but breathable to help you stay cool. Cotton or bamboo bed sheets with a thread count between 300 and 800 are a great option.
The right pillow can help you slumber peacefully all night long. Your pillow keeps your head and neck in alignment, whether you sleep on your side or your back. You want a pillow with a 2” gusset so you can stay comfortable all night long.
The amount of light in your bedroom affects your sleep quality. Humans evolved to sleep when it was dark and work when it was light. If you have light seeping into your bedroom, this can keep you awake longer or cause you to wake up during the night. Your cell phone, TVs, and digital alarm clocks are all potential light sources that can prevent you from having your best night’s sleep. If you aren’t able to remove light sources from your room, consider a light-blocking eye pillow to improve your sleep.
Finally, when you go to sleep matters. Your body has a natural rhythm for the best times to sleep and wake up. When you go to bed at different times every night, this disrupts your circadian rhythm and makes it harder to get good sleep. You should aim to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
The feeling of waking up after a good night’s sleep can’t be beaten. You feel energized, powerful, and ready to take on the day. The fact that getting good sleep every night is great for your health is just a bonus.
1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. American Family Physicians Association
3. The World Sleep Society