Most experts agree that adults should be getting between 7–9 hours of sleep per night, with younger individuals needing even more snooze time. However, studies have found that one in three American adults regularly do not get enough sleep. This can lead to low energy, unhealthy cravings, and an increased risk for disease. How much sleep do you get per night? Read on to learn why sleep is important and learn some healthy tips to slumber soundly.
Why You Should Get More Sleep
Sleep is an incredibly important part of a healthy life. While we sleep our brain works to sort through the day, while our body gets busy repairing damaged tissues and cells. Here are some benefits to sleeping 7+ hours per night:
Sleep has long been associated with energy levels. While you snooze your body works to restore your brain, making you more alert and allowing you to process information faster upon waking. Those that get less than the recommended amount of sleep may suffer from low physical and mental energy throughout the day. This in turn may challenge your motivation to workout and stay active.
Combat Unhealthy Cravings
Did you know lack of sleep has been associated with junk food cravings? Bodies that are sleep deprived will increase their production of ghrelin (a hormone that controls cravings for simple sugars and carbohydrates) and decrease their production of leptin (a hormone that tells us to stop eating). In one study participants that slept 5 hours versus 8 hours per night saw a 15% increase in ghrelin production and a 15% decrease in leptin. This means when you sleep less you are more likely to crave unhealthy, sugary foods and less likely to resist.
There are a number of links between sleep and metabolism. Sleep deprivation has been connected to decreased insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Sleeping less than 7 hours per night has been linked to an increase risk for type 2 diabetes.
Decrease Risk for Disease
A number of diseases are associated with poor sleeping habits. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night may increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and inflammation. Additionally, sub-optimal sleep will suppress immune system function, making it harder for you to fight off illness.
Many studies have confirmed that our immune system works best when getting adequate sleep. This means sleeping soundly becomes even more critical during cold season and when fighting infections. Do you feel like you may be getting sick? Try taking a nap and make sure your immune system is prepared!
A large percentage of those with depression also report trouble sleeping. Sleep plays an important role in emotional processing and restoring the brain. Lack of sleep may result in impatience, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and over time depression.
While we sleep our brain consolidates memories and new information learned throughout the day. The brain also performs a number of regenerative processes during this time like cleaning out toxins and forming new pathways. Studies have even found that sleeping after learning new information may lead to better retention.
Tips for Better Sleep
Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, yet many Americans have difficulties clocking quality snooze time night after night. Here are some tips to improve your slumber:
The foods you eat throughout the day, especially in the hours before bed, can affect your sleep quality. Avoid eating foods that are spicy, contain caffeine, alcohol, or are high in unhealthy saturated fats after dinner. Additionally, there are a number of wholesome foods that will work to improve your sleep. Don’t go to bed hungry! Try snacking on these foods to keep you satisfied throughout the night and improve your zzz’s — including nuts, seeds, select fruit, and Svelte® plant-based protein shakes.
Make sure you are getting plenty of exercise throughout the day. While working out regularly is a great way to improve sleeping habits, most experts agree that working out early in the day may be ideal for those who complain about sleep quality. However, late night exercise won’t keep everybody up. If it is something that works for you — go for it!
Set an Atmosphere for Sleep
A number of factors can affect your sleep including temperature, light, and other people/animals. Prepare for the expected temperatures with your nighttime attire and bedding so you don’t wake up uncomfortable. If light bothers you, make sure you invest in good curtains to block out early morning sun and keep the television off if there is one in the bedroom. Do you live with animals or sleep with a partner? Consider kicking the pets out and asking your partner to be considerate of your sleeping needs.
Ease into sleep with a nightly routine. Try putting down all electronics 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed. Take a bath, light a candle, or use an aromatherapy diffuser with sleep promoting scents to relax. Once you get into bed try reading or this simple yoga routine if you are not tired enough to fall asleep.
Don’t suffer from poor sleep! Sleeping too little has been associated with weight gain, disease, depression, and more. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night to improve your well-being using the healthy tips above.