The pace of modern life has done serious damage to our overall sleep. While once good sleep was an obvious necessity, nowadays it can seem like a distant dream.
We have all heard that we need 8 hours of sleep per night. While this number is a bit flexible, most doctors and sleep experts still recommend a minimum of 7 hours and up to 9 hours of sleep for the average adult per night.
Unfortunately, those numbers are far off the reality for many people. According to recent statistics, 35.2% of all adults in the US report getting less than seven hours of sleep on average per night. At least 10% and potentially up to 30% of adults suffer some form of chronic insomnia.
Even when people do get the recommended amount of sleep, studies show it is often low quality. As a result, close to half of all US adults report being sleepy during the day at least 3 times per week. The result to the economy is easily tracked with sleep deprivation and low sleep quality causing up to $411 billion dollars in losses per year in the US due to lower productivity, errors, and accidents.
Why Sleep is Vital to Health
We know sleep is important because we have been told our whole lives. However, what exactly is happening to our bodies when we don’t get adequate sleep? How does it impact overall health?
Sleep is still a bit of a mystery. Scientists have studied sleep and what happens when we sleep extensively. While they still don’t understand the process 100%, scientists have been able to observe many vital health functions that occur during sleep.
One reason for sleep is the need for cellular restoration. When we sleep, our bodies are able to relax from the minute-to-minute task of keeping us alive and conscious. Instead, the body can turn to restoration, repair, and regrowth.
During sleep, the body works to repair muscles, grow tissue, release vital hormones, complete protein synthesis. This is also an important time for the production of cytokines, antibodies, and immune cells which all help restore and improve the immune system.
The same way a computer can get overloaded and filled up with junk files, so can our brains get overwhelmed and burned out without adequate rest.
When we sleep, the brain uses the lack of ongoing input to reorganize and solidify information. On scans, we can see that the brain is incredibly active during sleep. This is when memories are stored in long-term memory or thrown out as unneeded.
Emotions and stress levels are also reset during sleep as the brain’s amygdala is able to rest.
The brain’s glymphatic system also clears out the buildup of byproducts and waste from the brain which has been shown to help with the prevention of Alzheimer’s.
Full Body Health
Outside of the brain and beyond individual cells, sleep is also when the body takes care of all the other vital systems that might be overworked during a long, stressful day.
When we sleep, the body lowers our hunger hormones letting our gastrointestinal system reset. When someone doesn’t get adequate sleep, studies have shown a higher risk of obesity and diabetes. Insulin levels are also regulated during sleep, further lowering the risk of diabetes.
Tips on Getting Better Sleep
At this point, we have fully covered why sleep is important but all that information is of little importance if you aren’t getting good sleep. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to hopefully improve your sleep quality and quantity.
Have a Sleep Schedule
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time everyday helps set your circadian rhythm. This is your internal clock that tells you when to sleep, eat, wake up, etc. Having an irregular sleep schedule will throw off your clock leading to a greater risk of insomnia.
Something else that can throw off the circadian rhythm is artificial lights. The ideal sleeping space should be as dark as possible.
Additionally, you will want an environment that is cool and quiet. If you can’t get that, consider investing in a white-noise machine or earplugs.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
Getting a night of quality sleep will greatly depend on what you eat and drink during the day – especially the few hours before bed.
Don’t go to bed hungry but also avoid heavy or large meals within a couple hours of your bedtime. Healthy foods without a lot of sugars or preservatives are best. At Eric’s Health Food Shoppe we carry a wide selection of healthy and organic options.
Consider a Sleep Aid
If you do all of the above and still have trouble sleeping, you might want to consider a natural sleep aid. Sleep aids are over-the-counter supplements that can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.
Eric’s Health Food Shoppe carries a number of plant-based options, vitamins, and mineral sleep aids. Ingredients that have been shown to help with sleep include: melatonin, lavender, chamomile, passionflower, cannabidiol (CBD), and tart cherry juice.