- Personal Health Information & Self-Help»
- Self-Help for Sleep Issues & Sleeplessness
How Sleep Benefits Your Life
Have you noticed that sleep has become a hot topic of conversation today? I was watching the Squawk Box the other night, and I heard that the CEO of Aetna Insurance, Mr. Bertolini, has handed out Fitbit's to his employees and he is now paying them to sleep. He said, "If they can prove that they get 20 nights of sleep for seven hours or more in a row, we will give them $25 a night, up to $500 a year,". This got me thinking, if a CEO is willing to pay his employees to get the needed sleep every night, then this is a problem and we need to talk about it.
Most of us know that sleep is important and that it is needed just as much as air, food and water is needed, but few of us get the needed sleep we need. Do you know, according to the National Sleep Association, 1 in 3 American adults are not getting enough sleep. We have forgotten what it feels like to be fully rested. The amount of sleep needed varies for individuals based age, but lifestyle and health also play a role in determining the correct amount of sleep needed. Generally, it is recommended that you get 7 hours of sleep per night.
There are many factors that play a part in keeping us from getting the recommended sleep, but the largest players are stimulants such as, caffeine, late night eating and bright lights from your TV and electronic devices.
Sleep deprivation plays a large role in our health and opens us up for an array of health issues. The way you feel when you're awake, depends largely on how you slept the night before. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintaining physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. When you fail to get the correct amount of sleep, you open yourself up to heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, stroke, depression and many more issues.
I know that when its time to go to bed there's always something more important to do. I myself, do this more times than I would like to admit. There is always that load of laundry that needs done, the work project that has been pushed off to the last minute or most importantly, the new episode of "How to Get Away with Murder". Seriously, sleep is extremely important to not only our health but how we function on a daily basis. It benefits many things in our lives and you probably aren't aware of most of them. Here are a few:
The first benefit that comes to mind is melatonin production. If you have ever talked to your doctor about having trouble sleeping, you were probably told to start taking melatonin. Melatonin, is a natural hormone that is released when we sleep. This hormone not only helps us go to sleep but it also aides in helping boost our immune system, fights inflammation and may aid in helping to fight off cancerous cells 1.
Muscle and Tissue repair:
Sleep is a time for restoration. During sleep, the body builds muscle, repairs tissue, recharges and enhances brain function. Your metabolism may slow down so your body can focus on these actions.
Boosts the immune system:
I am sure when you were a kid or even now as a parent yourself, you have either heard or been told, to go lie down and get some sleep when you were sick. This is because, our immune system works overtime when we are asleep. During sleep, our bodies release certain proteins, white blood cells, and more to help fight off infections and disease 2. This is why, you’re most prone to a sickness when your sleep deprived.
Improves memory and productivity:
The quantity and quality of sleep has a profound impact on our memory and productivity. Studies have shown that the more rested we are the more productive we are. A sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information. Dr. Robert Stickgold, a leading professor of psychiatry at Harvard, discusses this.
Improves our mood:
Getting enough sleep doesn't guarantee that you'll have a sunny disposition; but you have probably noticed that when you're exhausted, you're more likely to be grumpy. When you're overtired, you have probably noticed, you are more likely to snap at your boss, burst into tears, or start laughing uncontrollably.
A lack of sleep can cause big problems in your relationships. Gehrman and Allison T. Siebern, PhD, a fellow in the Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center, say sleep-deprived men and women report problems with sex. They say, "Lack of sleep can lead to low energy, fatigue, and sleepiness. This may affect libido and/or decrease interest in sex.”
So you see the benefits of sleeping, but are still saying to yourself, "How can I get more sleep". You can try changing one or more of these habits:
You should be limiting the time on your electronics and shutting them off 30 - 60 minutes before going to bed.
Only use your bed for sleeping and sex.
Stay away from big fatty meals, chocolate, acid and spicy food. These foods promote heartburn and can lead to restlessness.
Try avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, these can also lead to heartburn and cause you to toss throughout the night.
Regular exercise can decrease stress and promote good sleep.
If you are a smoker, quit. Nicotine is a stimulant and can keep you awake.
If none of these tips work, make an appointment with your doctor and consult them how what you can do.