Written by: 
Paulina Wyrwas Sunday, 9 December, 2018 - 22:34

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is an essential part of our lives, yet many of us neglect it completely. In a hectic life we rarely get enough hours of rest, not to mention its quality, and we may not even realise the consequences. It’s time to take better care of yourself!

Constantly tired, grey faces with red, puffy eyes, hands holding cups loaded with caffeine… Lack of sleep seems to be a plague among the modern youth. We live in a constant rush, our schedules are overflowing with various tasks and responsibilities, and rest usually ends up as the lowest priority on our lists. People tend to underestimate the importance of good-quality sleep, without realising the consequences. Moreover, many of us don’t know what “quality sleep” even means – how long we should sleep, how to make sure we actually get enough rest and how to take care of appropriate sleep hygiene. This article will be your first step to finally getting a good night’s sleep.

First things first – do you know why sleep is so important? We all know that sleep is the time when our body and brain regenerate. Let's get down to a bit of science: it is the time when your heart and blood vessels heal and repair, protecting you from heart and kidney diseases, strokes and low blood pressure. Sleep is also an important factor for lowering the risk of diabetes, as it affects how your body reacts to insulin (the hormone that controls your blood sugar level).

If you still don’t feel convinced, good sleep can help you maintain appropriate body weight! Have you noticed that when you are sleepy, you are also more prone to reaching for comfort foods instead of healthy, nutritious meals?  Night time is when your body produces hormones, including ghrelin and leptin – hormones responsible for feeling hungry and full. What this actually means is that sleep deprivation lowers your metabolism, making you more likely to gain weight.

Good sleep is important for your mind as well. Obviously, feeling well-rested affects your mood, response time, and efficiency at work. Studies show that sleep has a crucial impact on activity in some parts of the brain. If you're tired, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behaviour, and coping with change.

Now that you know why you should always get enough sleep, it’s time to find out how. Have you ever wondered how much sleep is “enough”? Or if there is such a thing as too much sleep? For an adult, the appropriate amount is between 7 and 9 hours. This means that sleeping over 9 hours per day can actually be bad for you. Oversleeping has similar effects to sleep deprivation: over time it can also lead to diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. More common effects of sleeping too much are headaches, lack of energy or depression. Sounds familiar? Remember that anything in excess is bad.

It’s not only how much sleep you get that’s important – if the quality of sleep is not right, you will not get its full benefits. There are a few tricks that can help you get as much rest as possible. You need to take care of a proper sleep hygiene. Firstly, remember that your bed should be reserved for sleep only – if you have a habit of working or eating in bed you should try to move it to somewhere else. Studies prove that separating workspace and sleeping space can help you fall asleep faster and sleep better throughout the night. And there’s bad news for those addicted to phones – the blue light from the screen disrupts natural sleep patterns by affecting melatonin (sleep hormone) levels. Does avoiding touching your phone and laptop for two hours before sleep sound impossible? At least switch all of your devices to night shift mode – it gives a yellow tint to your display, minimising the negative effect on your hormones. If your device doesn’t have a built-in night mode, you can try Twilight (for Android) or f.lux (for Windows).

If you have trouble falling asleep, you should try going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. It might be challenging, especially during weekends, but once you establish a routine, waking up early during the week becomes much easier.  Humans are creatures of habit, so having a nice bedtime routine – a time for you to unwind, relax, and get ready for bed - is the first step to good quality sleep. You can pick out an outfit and pack your bag for the following day, have a nice, warm bath, listen to some music, set time to read a book… try out what works best for you and stick to it!

Maybe it sounds like a lot of restrictions, hard to keep up with when you have a fully packed schedule and tight deadlines –  but still, sleep should be a priority. You’ll be much more efficient finishing everything in your crowded schedule with a rested brain, good energy, and positive attitude – not to mention that after a full night of sleep, those busy days will also feel better. Don’t you think it is worth sacrificing one thing in order to get proper rest? In the long run, it will bring you much more benefit and help you manage your time and tasks better. Good luck – and sleep well!

P.S. You can read up more about the science of sleep here.

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