Sleep is incredibly important for both physical and mental wellbeing. During sleep, our bodies repair heart and blood muscles. Sleep triggers a hormone that promotes growth in teens and children and helps heal cells and muscles in children and adults alike. Sleep balances how full and hungry we feel; if we’re well-rested, we’re more likely to have a healthy body weight. It also improves the immune system. When we sleep, our brains form new pathways that prepare us for acquiring information with the new day. We learn better when we sleep more, and we also just get along better with others. Studies show that people who get enough sleep function more efficiently and effectively.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep
Lack of sleep can have major consequences. Sleep deficiency can lead to problems making decisions, controlling emotions, and coping with change. It can have bigger problems as well, such as mental illness and suicide. Long-term consequences include higher risk for chronic health problems. Sleep deficiency is linked with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It also affects our functioning and safety as far as our actions are concerned. A consistent lack of sleep can lead people to microsleep, which is where a person has a brief moment of sleep when he or she is normally awake. This puts us at risk for major accidents. Sleep deficiency impairs driving ability just as much as being drunk. Sleep is essential on a personal level as well as on a large-scale: we don’t want those operating nuclear plants and flying our planes not reacting quickly enough to an emergency or even snoozing on the job.
There are ways to ensure we get a good night’s sleep. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends making enough time to sleep–sleep is often the first thing to go when we get stressed. The NHLB also recommends waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, using the hour before bed as quiet time to wind down. We should avoid large meals before bedtime and avoid nicotine and caffeine all the time. And, of course, we should all spend time outside every day.
Experts strongly recommend dedicating the hour before bed to quiet time. This means turning off screens and slowing down the body. To calm your brain, now is a good time to open up a book or a magazine. Snuggle up with your pet. Be careful though–you don’t want allergies to keep you up! Fortunately, breeders can pair you with a pal who will be perfect for you health-wise and who will cuddle up with you at night, keeping you warm, cozy, and loved.
You could also calm your mind with a game of solitaire (with real cards! Not on a computer), or spend ten to twenty minutes meditating. To calm your body, you might take a hot bath or soak in the spa for a bit, or have a your favorite nightcap (be careful to stay away from making a habit and needing a drink in order to sleep, though). You could also wind down with tai chi or yoga, which will help still both body and brain.