From a young age, many of us are told that sleep is important—though typically without any scientific evidence, thanks mom—while simultaneously being woken up for school (and then work) at 6am. It’s a confusing dynamic that often becomes neglected as we grow up, start to be overwhelmed by school, social interaction, and eventually, a demanding job.
The truth is, mom was right even if she didn’t know (or simply didn’t share) the actual reasons why sleep is so important. The benefits of sleep are actually many and more integral in not only our health, but our quality of life than most realize.
Perhaps it is the perception that children need more sleep in order to grow healthy and strong (they do, to an extent), so once we reach adulthood we believe we can neglect that aspect of our wellbeing. Maybe we simply get distracted and overwhelmed by the demands that consume our time each and every day. Whatever the reason, it’s important that we begin reversing this trend in order to live healthier, happier lives.
Benefits of Sleep
This purpose of this article is not to scare you, but some of the facts presented might. For example, insufficient sleep has been linked to an uptick in serious health conditions, including heart disease, obesity, and other health problems. While most of these issues occur after years of poor sleeping habits, negative consequences can arise after just a few days of neglect.
Proper sleep, on the other hand, can contribute to numerous positive outcomes for your physical, mental, and even emotional wellbeing. It may sound outlandish, but having good sleeping habits can improve your mood, your mental sharpness, your physical prowess, your immune system, and even your sex life!
Why is sleep such a powerful act for all aspects of health? Simply put, your body goes through a process of restoration and repair. Blood flow is increased, hormones are released, and your body experiences growth—literally as a youth and cellularly as an adult. That’s why you wake up feel energetic and even reset after a good night’s rest.
A Sleepless Epidemic
If you’re someone who falls into the category of not sleeping enough, don’t be embarrassed or feel singled-out—over one-third of Americans don’t get the proper amount of sleep. The natural question that follows this statistic is “how much sleep should I get?”
Unfortunately, there is not a conclusive answer to this question because, simply put, everyone is different. There are, however, a few guidelines that give you a decent idea of the range of hours you should consider sleeping as well as research on the time of night best suited for rest (and even on the best sleeping positions, but we won’t get into that).
The Ideal Length of Sleep
The average person needs between 7.5 and 8 hours per night—a fact you’ve probably heard before. What you may not be aware of is that some people can be just fine getting only 6 hours a night, while others may upwards of 9. That’s right, the amount of sleep someone needs can vary from 6 hours to over 9—a pretty wide window of possibility.
To determine how much sleep you need, consider your level of activity—often times those who engage in heavy physical activity need more rest to properly recover. Because there is no scientific solution to the question of sleep duration, take it upon yourself to feel out how many hours are best for you. Experiment with different lengths and feel out which contributes most to your energy level, mood, and overall feelings of health!
Finally, it is important to consider when you are sleeping. Again, this is dependent on the individual, even correlating to genetic makeup. As a general rule, however, the sleep cycles your body needs may dictate you fall asleep before 3am—sorry video game fanatics and shift workers. It is important to realize that, just like the length of sleep, the timing is very much dependent on the individual, so feel it out for yourself!