How often do you read about how important healthy diet and regular exercising are for a healthy way of living? But what you do not hear that often is that good quality of sleep is one of the most important aspects for achieving a healthier life.
With 75% of the European workforce getting less than the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, more of us are suffering from sleep and healthy problems due to stress and hectic lifestyles.
According to Dr. Lawrence Epstein, President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep, sleeping is as important to health and well being as diet and exercise.
Many people don’t realise that lack of sufficient sleep can trigger mild to potentially life-threatening consequences, from weight gain to a heart attack.
Why good quality of sleep is so important
Here are six reasons to get enough sleep (suggested by The Harvard Women’s Health Watch):
- Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
- Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
- Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
- Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
- Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
- Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.
Clearly, getting enough sleep is just as important as other vital elements of good health, such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and practicing good dental hygiene. In short, sleep is not a luxury but a basic component of a healthy lifestyle!
How can you improve the quality of your sleep?
10 simple ways to improve your sleep (Tips from the World Sleep Society):
- Establish a regular bedtime and waking time.
- Don’t sleep for more than 45 minutes during the day.
- Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol four hours before bedtime and don’t smoke.
- Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate and fizzy drinks) six hours before bedtime.
- Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods four hours before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
- Use comfortable, inviting bedding.
- Find a comfortable sleep temperature setting and keep the room well ventilated.
- Block out all distracting noise and eliminate light.
- Reserve your bed for sleep and sex – don’t use it for work or general recreation.
If you have tried all this but still have difficulties sleeping well, then be aware that there are already numerous wellness retreats around the world introducing sleep programmes to assist with problems such as chronic insomnia or even just mild sleep problems.
“Health is the first muse, and sleep is the condition to produce it” – Ralph Waldo Emerson