Scrolling Instagram or Twitter in bed, binging a favorite TV show into the wee hours of the morning, or answering just one more email or text on your phone before setting your alarm – there are so many habits of this sort that we’re all guilty of and that can keep us from getting the sleep we need. Continue reading to learn more about the importance of getting enough sleep and how it affects you.
The importance of getting enough sleep
It’s hugely important for our health. So not only could binging a show late into the night on a Sunday leave you dragging at work on a Monday, but if you make a habit of doing this sort of thing, it can be pretty rough for your long-term health too.
Sleep largely affects your health in several ways
Sleep is healthy – and completely necessary – for so many reasons. One of the amazing gifts sleep gives us is to keep our mood, judgement, focus, and brain plasticity – which is the brain’s ability to learn and retain information – in tip top shape, and all can suffer when we don’t get the sleep we need. What else suffers? Our ability to stay safe – the risk of serious accident and injury also climbs when we’re not getting enough rest. Experts believe that sleep can even help with waste products being removed from brain cells.
Not getting enough rest in the long-term can make you sick
Long-term, it’s just as clear that we really need our rest. Not getting the sleep you need on a regular basis is associated with a number of health problems, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Symptoms of certain health problems – like high blood pressure, depression, migraines, and seizures – can worsen without enough sleep. There are also links between lack of sleep and a high chance for weight gain. Chronic sleep issues have even been shown to be associated with mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
But how much sleep is enough?
At this point you probably get it – sleep is important! But how much do you need? If you’re sleeping between 7 and 8 hours a night, you may very well be getting the recommended amount, since this is the amount experts recommend for adults from age 26 to 64. But it’s not one size fits all – some people need more sleep, and some people need less. Up to 10 hours or as few as 6 hours may also be the right amount. More or less than this isn’t recommended, and sleep outside of this range could mean that someone is experiencing a serious health problem. If that widely-held assumption that 8 hours of sleep a night is the magic number that’s rattling around in your head, but you happen to feel really amazing running on only 6 and a half hours of sleep, well that could be the goldilocks (“Just right!”) number for you.
Really, you need to pay attention to how you seem to be sleeping at night and how you’re feeling during the day, and use this info to figure out what’s right for you. As you do so, try to stay attuned to how much sleep you need to feel like your very best self – happy, productive, alert, refreshed when you wake up, able to concentrate, and not sleepy during the day.
When to reach out to your healthcare provider
If you notice that you’re not sleeping well at night – having trouble falling asleep, disturbed sleep, trouble breathing, snoring, tingling or cramping in your legs, or anything else that seems to be off and preventing you from restful sleep – talk with your healthcare provider so they can help figure out if there is an underlying health problem that may be stoping you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Every once in a while we’re all going to have that rough Monday at work where we need to have an extra cup of coffee to make it through the day. But you don’t want that to be how you feel day in and day out. And, truly, you deserve happy days and restful nights.
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- “Consequences of Insufficient Sleep.” Healthy Sleep. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, December 18 2007. Retrieved February 11 2019. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences.
- “The Science of Sleep: Understanding What Happens When You Sleep.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System. Retrieved February 11 2019. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy-sleep/sleep-science/the-science-of-sleep-understanding-what-happens-when-you-sleep.
- “Sleep and Disease Risk.” Healthy Sleep. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, December 18 2007. Retrieved February 11 2019. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk.
- “Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety.” Healthy Sleep. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, December 18 2007. Retrieved February 11 2019. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk.