5-star Fitness

Why Sleep Should Be A Top Priority

Written By Page Lauer • 2 min read

According to the Huffington Post, reporting on Harvard Medical School research recently:

  • One-third of American workers are ‘sleep working’, or not getting enough sleep to function at optimal levels
  • 40% of participants in the research said they were exhausted when they woke up in the morning
  • Another 36% reported feeling either irritated or frustrated, after waking, along with poor eating habits during the day due to low energy
  • And, 91% of individuals reported waking at least once during the night, often due to temperature-related issues or needing to use the bathroom

There is no doubt that quality sleep can be elusive, challenging, and quite simply, not ‘a given’ for many. Exploring how we can improve sleep is worth doing, as the benefits are so important to health and wellbeing! For example, according to Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist, “sleep helps service all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness, and mood.” Put simply, sleeps helps you:

think more clearly
-have quicker reflexes
-focus better
-make better decisions
-repair and restore, in both mind and body
-have a stronger immune system and better cardiovascular health
-and even lose weight
Conversely, loss of sleep puts people at risk for obesity, heart disease, and infections. It also impairs higher levels of reasoning, problem-solving, and attention to detail, according to Dr. Mitler. And, tired people are less productive at work, less stable in mood, and experience more relational difficulties. 

So, what is a good night’s sleep and how might we work towards that?

A good night’s sleep consists of 4 to 5 sleep cycles. Each cycle includes periods of deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (when we dream). Although personal needs vary, on average, adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Young children need at least 10 hours of sleep, while teenagers need at least 9 hours. To attain the maximum restorative benefits of sleep, getting a full night of quality sleep is important.

Sleep can be disrupted by many things. Stimulants such as caffeine or certain medications can keep you up. Distractions such as electronics—especially the blue light from TVs, cell phones, tablets, and e-readers—can prevent you from falling asleep. As people get older, they may not get enough sleep because of illness, medications, or sleep disorders. By some estimates, about 70 million Americans of all ages suffer from chronic sleep problems. 

To improve sleep, consider consulting with your doctor, adding helpful supplements to your diet, reducing stress, and adopting a “wind-down routine” about 60-90 minutes before bed.  According to The Sleep Foundation, various steps can be taken for healthier sleep routines. These include:

  • Having a set bedtime and maintaining a steady sleep schedule
  • Finding relaxation techniques, as part of a standard routine before bedtime
  • Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine in the evening
  • Dimming lights and putting away electronic devices for an hour or more before bed
  • Getting regular exercise and natural light exposure during the daytime
  • Maximizing comfort and support from your mattress, pillows, and bedding
  • Blocking out excess light and sound that could disrupt sleep

It can take time, as well as trial and error, to find the best routines and bedroom arrangements for each individual. However, it will likely offer benefits in helping you fall asleep quickly and stay asleep through the night. In turn, the accumulation of consistent high-quality sleep will improve the way you move through life in all aspects: work, relationships, mood, energy, creativity, and kindness!

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