There’s nothing better than a great night’s sleep. But why is it important and why do we need sleep for health and wellness?
While most people think about sleep as a stationary activity, the reality is that your brain and your body are actually very active while you sleep.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
While most people think about sleep as a stationary activity, the reality is that your brain and your body are actually very active while you sleep. Your brain and body are actively working to recover and recharge in order to be prepared and healthy for the day ahead. In this article we’ll explore that concept a little deeper.
For optimal health and wellness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 7+ hours of sleep per night for adults ages 18 to 60 years old. The amount of sleep needed increases for kids as the body and mind are growing.
But Jen, what if my brain and body doesn’t “need” seven hours of sleep per night? I assure you, even if it’s not obvious yet, your brain and body could benefit greatly from getting at least seven hours of sleep.
Sure, you can function with less than seven hours of sleep each night, but at what cost? Depriving your brain and body of sleep can hold back your health and its ability to fight off diseases.
According to the CDC, “People often cut back on their sleep for work, for family demands, or even to watch a good show on television. But if not getting enough sleep is a regular part of your routine, you may be at an increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, poor mental health, and even early death.”
Is that extra TV show each night worth it? You decide, but you need to know what it could be costing you, even if those costs aren’t obvious right this second.
Sleep Quality Also Matters
Getting enough sleep is vital for your health and wellness, but it’s also important to get quality sleep.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Quality sleep – and getting enough of it at the right times — is as essential to survival as food and water. Without sleep you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.”
The 4 Stages of Sleep
The quality of your sleep can be broken down into the four stages of sleep, “one for rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and three that form non-REM (NREM) sleep. These stages are determined based on an analysis of brain activity during sleep, which shows distinct patterns that characterize each stage.” (Sleep Foundation)
Sleep Foundation also points out that, “Sleep is not uniform. Instead, over the course of the night, your total sleep is made up of several rounds of the sleep cycle, which is composed of four individual stages…. Not all sleep cycles are the same length, but on average they last about 90 minutes each.”
Each stage of sleep is different and will repeat cyclically throughout the night until you wake up. Each stage plays an important role in helping your body recover and recharge. “Sleep stages are important because they allow the brain and body to recuperate and develop. Failure to obtain enough of both deep sleep and REM sleep8 may explain some of the profound consequences of insufficient sleep on thinking10, emotions, and physical health.” (Sleep Foundation)
Is Sleep Essential for Health and Wellness?
The NIH, CDC, and Sleep Foundation have many studies, research, and data to show that the amount of sleep and the quality of your sleep can have significant impacts on your short and long term health. This includes your mental and physical health.
Some of the next questions you may have are “how do I get more sleep?” or “what if I can’t sleep”? We’ll explore those topics in an upcoming article.
Next Steps to Improve Your Sleep
Add sleep to your schedule. If you need 7+ hours each night, start by working backwards from the time that you have to wake up. Set your schedule to get in bed at least 8 to 10 hours before you have to get up. For example, if you have to get up at 6:00 AM, then you need to be in bed by 10:00 PM. This will give you enough time to fall asleep and allow you some extra room for days when you get to bed later than planned. Also try to turn electronics off at least an hour before going to bed as they stimulate your brain and can impair your ability to fall asleep. Another good tip is to have a warm herbal (decaffeinated) tea after dinner to help begin the relaxation process.