December 30, 2023 6 min read
Every year, people across the globe make their New Year’s resolutions with the hope of igniting positive changes. Most of these entail promises to finally get in shape, eat mindfully, quit smoking, get organized, save money, learn a new hobby, and spend more time with friends and family. Interestingly enough, one thing that’s rarely a part of these resolutions is improving one’s sleep.
New Year or not, sleep seems to be the most neglected component of personal health and well-being. But without enough quality snoozing, the chances of achieving your resolutions are low to nil. So, if you’ve been neglecting sleep in years past, it’s high time to give sleep the attention it deserves. To learn more about the importance of sleep in making positive changes and which sleep goals to set in 2024, keep scrolling.
A good night’s sleep is critical for your mind, body, and safety. Yet, surveys show that around 40% of all adults aren’t getting enough of this essential function . Some researchers even believe the consequence of a sleep-deprived population is poor public health, with reduced sleep being linked to 7 out of 15 leading causes of death .
Since sleep is essential for health and well-being, it makes sense to make better sleep a goal this year. You’re not very likely to achieve your other resolutions if your body is deprived of sleep all the time. But in case you need more convincing to prioritize sleep in 2024, here are some noteworthy benefits of sleeping soundly 7 to 8 hours each day:
Sleep deprivation was found to compromise immunity and make it harder to fight infectious diseases . Inadequate sleep was also found to cause a dysregulated sympathetic nervous system, which leads to chronic inflammation and its consequences: cardiovascular disease, depression, and even cancer .
Nowhere is the importance of sleep more evident than in mental functioning. Not getting adequate hours of sleep leads to slow thinking, reduced attention span, poor memory, lack of energy, and mood swings . Unfortunately, many chronically sleep-deprived folks are not aware of these changes due to the brain’s ability to adapt to chronic sleep deprivation.
Sleep is an important regulator of metabolism. Too little sleep increases cortisol levels, which signals the body to conserve energy. In other words, your propensity to gain weight increases. That’s why it’s not surprising that a study involving over 200 women put on a weight loss program found that those who slept well were 33% more likely to reach their goal weight .
Because sleep affects your cognition and energy levels, it can also have a huge impact on your motivation and ability to perform well at your job. Analyzing data from the Kansas State employee wellness program (EWP) from 2008–2009, researchers found that even mild sleep deprivation leads to poor work performance and attendance .
Know that feeling when you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day? That feeling comes from the restorative power of sleep. During sleep, the body releases growth hormones to help with cell repair and growth. Sleep also activates the body’s detoxifying mechanism and brain waves that help consolidate memory. All this translates to greater mental and physical energy during the day.
Now that you know that sleep is essential for your health, well-being, and functioning, it’s time to develop a strategy to improve it. Like diet and exercise, sleep requires some level of discipline and mindfulness. Setting sleep goals for the year ahead can help with this.
With sleep, consistency is key. Getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, every night is important if you want to reap the benefits sleep has to offer. In a study supported by the NIH, irregular sleeping patterns lead to weight gain and metabolic derangements even if they’re followed by catch-up sleep on the weekends . Sticking to a sleep schedule and working on your sleep hygiene can help you develop a healthy sleep routine.
Napping is somewhat of a double-edged sword, and the difference lies in duration . On the one hand, short and infrequent naps can help you recover from sleep debt. On the other hand, regular napping for several hours during the day can be harmful to health, possibly by throwing your circadian rhythm off track. Next time you plan to take a nap, set your alarm clock so you wake up after 15 to 30 minutes. Short naps can leave you feeling alert and refreshed without interfering with your sleep schedule.
Where you sleep is just as important as when and how long you sleep. An ideal sleep environment is dark, cool (but not cold), and quiet, with comfortable bedding and humidity levels between 30 and 50% . If your bedroom meets these requirements, it has everything necessary to keep you sound asleep. But if your room is too light, hot, noisy, and just uncomfortable, it will be more difficult for you to stay in the deep stages of sleep for long enough to feel refreshed.
What you do in the evening can have a profound effect on the quality of your sleep. Countless studies, for example, have found that looking at screens before bedtime leads to poor sleep quality . This is due to the sleep-disrupting effects of blue light emitted by most screens. Other habits that can interfere with sleep are consuming alcohol and caffeine in the evening, having heavy meals before bed, and working late.
Exercising daily, especially if you work a desk job, can promote better sleep. A systematic review published in 2017 concluded that sleep and exercise have a positive impact on one another . Exercise promotes deep sleep by releasing feel-good endorphins that promote relaxation but also by reversing healthy problems caused by inactivity. In turn, sleeping well gives you the energy and motivation to stick to a consistent exercise routine.
Insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea and other sleep disorders interfere with normal sleep. If you suspect that you have a sleep problem that conservative measures can’t seem to solve, then speak to your doctor so you can tackle any problem before it impacts your health further. Insomnia can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, sleep apnea with CPAP machines, and chronic snoring with mouthpieces like the Good Morning Snore Solution tongue-stabilizing device.
February 20, 2024 3 min read
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