The importance of quality sleep and the health benefits of good “sleep hygiene” are well documented. Nevertheless, more and more studies suggest that the vast majority of people are still far off the mark when it comes to sleep. Too much sleep has some downsides, though these are overshadowed by insufficient sleep, which can have serious consequences on a person’s health.
On the plus side, sleep does tend to be one of the few things in life we actually have a great deal of control and influence over. It often takes time and effort to modify and adapt habits for the sake of improving sleep, but it is the kind of effort that repays itself many times over. As is the case with so many things, it’s not until you improve your sleeping habits and routines that you gain an understanding of how these positive changes can impact your health.
To put the subject in some kind of perspective, here’s a quick rundown of some well-documented health benefits of a good night’s sleep, along with a few helpful tips for improving sleep quality.
First of all, while the vast majority of your body may be relatively motionless throughout the night, your brain is anything but. While you sleep, a process called “consolidation” occurs. Consolidation is when the brain automatically sifts through the information, knowledge, and exercises that it was exposed to during the day. The longer you are asleep, the more time the brain has to consolidate the information from the previous day.
In order for the body to function as efficiently as possible, it needs plenty of sleep. When the body is unable to function to the best of its ability, weight gain becomes more likely and weight loss becomes more difficult. As such, there is a direct correlation between healthy sleep patterns and weight loss/weight management.
Inflammation is a major culprit in triggering almost everything: from arthritis, to diabetes, strokes, heart disease, and many other health issues. Research suggests that when individuals sleep for less than 6 hours every night, they are inherently more likely to suffer from inflammation than those sleeping a minimum of 8 hours per night.
Better Dietary Choices
Something else to bear in mind is that when your body is tired, it craves the kinds of foods and drinks that give it an instant and heavy dose of fat, sugar and calories in general. This is precisely why you are statistically most likely to crave junk food when tired, hungover or sick. By contrast, a well-rested body allows the individual in question to make much healthier dietary choices, day in and day out.
Regardless of who you are and your general approach to life, the amount of sleep you get will have an impact on your day to day mood. Insufficient sleep leads to grumpiness and negativity, while positive sleep patterns lead to more positivity, optimism, and general happiness. Sleep may not be the only key to everyday happiness, but it certainly helps!
Improved Athletic Performance
Unsurprisingly, it isn’t easy to perform at your full potential in any kind of sport or activity if you are lacking the sleep your body needs. The body and mind alike both need sufficient sleep in order to reach their full potential – attempting to compete while tired will be detrimental to your athletic performance.
If you’re the kind of individual who likes to work out in the gym or generally remain active at all times, then sleep is critical for your health. Sleep allows your body to repair itself, regenerate, and grow in strength. The importance of plenty of downtime following heavy exercise sessions is well-documented, but the most important work actually happens while you are asleep.
It might sound rather odd to speak of better sleep being a benefit of better sleep, but it is indeed a self-perpetuating cycle. By getting into positive sleep habits, you will naturally find it easier to drift off to sleep every night and will enjoy a deeper and healthier standard of sleep. By contrast, those who have poor sleeping habits and routines tend to find it infinitely more difficult to get to sleep despite the fact that they need to sleep more than anyone else!
Reduced Risk of Depression
Last but not least, a wide variety of studies have also highlighted the way in which sleep patterns show direct links with the likelihood of an individual developing depression. Just as positive sleeping habits reduce the risk of depression, insufficient sleep can increase the risk of depression. A good place to start if you’d like more information on this subject is the National Sleep Foundation website.
Making It Happen
One of the simplest things you can do to improve your chances of a good night’s sleep is to sleep in a comfortable, high-quality down duvet. If you wish to invest in a new set, we have a handy 4-steps guide for picking the right duvet according to your needs and sleeping habits. Along with ensuring you have a comfortable bed, there are a few other things you can do in order to reap the health benefits of satisfying sleeping habits, such as:
- Ditch the Device – Research has shown that a specific spectrum of light, known as “blue light,” is emitted from most electronic screens and can have an adverse effect on healthy sleep. From tablets and smartphones to computer screens and televisions, ditching devices before bed can make a big difference when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
- No Napping – Unsurprisingly, napping too frequently or for long periods throughout the day can also have an adverse effect on sleep quality in the evening.
- Eat Well – Dietary habits are directly connected with sleep in more ways than one – greasy, rich, sugary, and generally unhealthy meals don’t promote positive sleeping patterns.
- Routine – There’s really nothing more important than routine when it comes to getting your body used to sleeping at a certain time and being awake at other times. Mixing it up is never a good idea.
- Sleep Only – Last but not least, experts generally recommend that the bed itself be reserved only for sleeping. Other activities such as eating, watching movies, reading, and lounging around are best kept away from the bed. Only ever go to bed for sleeping as it helps condition the brain that when you are in bed, it is time to sleep.