Many people struggle with falling asleep while others think that they can sustain in fewer hours of sleep, but both are putting themselves in harm's way.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 8, 2019. It has since been updated.
Think back to the day when you woke up well-rested and absolutely raring to go. You probably didn't even need coffee to feel awake that day. You also probably slept seven to eight hours that day. Or not. The debate over how many hours of sleep is enough is has been going on for decades. While some research points to the fact that seven to eight hours is a must, a few experts disagree and claim that the quality of sleep matters more than the snooze hours.
Sleeping enough hours is as important as working out and eating right because not sleeping enough can cause multiple changes to your body, says Healthline. Before we go into the tips for better sleep, it is important to know why sleep is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle.
Researchers across the United Kingdom and Italy analyzed data from 16 separate studies conducted over 25 years. It covered more than 1.3 million people and more than 100,000 deaths. What they found was published in an article: Sleep Duration and All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. This suggests that clocking in six to eight of sleep is necessary for optimal health. Those who sleep five hours or lesser per night are considered to be at a higher risk of health issues and shorter life span.
Not sleeping enough is connected to gaining weight. Those who don't sleep enough hours are much heavier than those who have enough sleep. A study published by the Sleep Research Society—Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults—claims that children and adults with shorter sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to become obese, respectively.
When we sleep, the body releases compounds called cytokines, some of which act as a shield for the immune system to do its tasks. It helps fight inflammation, including inflammation caused by infection. If you don't sleep enough, the body wouldn't release the right amount of cytokines, which can stop you from getting sick. Antibodies and white blood cells also dip in number, when you don't sleep enough, according to Healthline.
The right amount of sleep doesn't just help improve focus but also protects and fortifies your memory. A report published by the American Physiological Society, About Sleep's Role in Memory, says that falling asleep after learning can improve memory retention. Inversely, those who are not sleeping enough have a harder time recollecting information due to the brain’s overworked or fatigued neurons. They could also be interpreting events differently and may have impaired judgment.
One of the common symptoms of most mental ailments, such as depression, anxiety disorder, and PTSD, is disturbed or irregular sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people with insomnia are ten times more likely to develop depression than those who sleep well! Research also suggests that improving the quality of sleep can have a positive impact on those struggling with mental illness and aids the recovery process.
Now that you know why sleep is paramount for physical and mental health, let's move to a few easy tips to improve the quality and duration of your sleep.
If the temperature of the room is too warm, it might make it harder for you to fall asleep. The same is the case if it is even a tad bit too cold. Experts say that the right temperature is somewhere between 60–75°F (15–23°C), but everyone's personal preferences are different. Find the one that works best for you. If you have a warm shower before falling asleep it will speed up the necessary body-temperature changes required for sleep.
According to Medical News, this is breathing technique can make you feel calm and relaxed, which in turn can help you fall asleep. It can also be used when you feel stressed or anxious. Start out by placing the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth and exhale through your mouth. Then close your mouth and inhale through your nose while counting to four. Hold your breath until the count of seven. Then open your mouth and exhale, make a whoosh sound, and count to eight mentally. Repeat the cycle.
Wake up the same time, even on weekends. Although it might make you feel tired in the morning, this will be short-term. In the long term, your body clock will get adjusted to it, helping you form a regular sleep pattern, according to Sleep Foundation.
If you can't sleep even after 20 minutes of getting into bed, don't keep lying there. Get up and go to another room, where you can do something relaxing like reading or listening to music. If you keep lying in bed, your mind would create an unhealthy association between your sleep environment and wakefulness. The thought of your bed should be able to make you have thoughts of sleeping, says Sleep Foundation.