woman sleeping in bed

Why sleep is essential for health?

A recent article published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine pulls no punches in describing why sleep is essential for good health.

“Sleep is vital for health and well-being in children, adolescents, and adults. Healthy sleep is important for cognitive functioning, mood, mental health, and cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and metabolic health.”1

As if those benefits aren’t enough to convince you, the authors also suggest that quantity and quality of sleep plays a role in reducing the risk of accidents and injuries. In fact, some of the biggest catastrophes in history have been associated with sleep deprivation, including the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, Exxon Valdez oil spill and nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in the US and Chernobyl in the Ukraine.2,3

While you may not be in charge of a ship, rocket or nuclear plant, a lack of quality sleep may still have serious implications in your day-to-day life.

The ‘cognitive functioning’ that the clinical journal above mentions, is just a fancy medical term for thinking and learning. Lack of sleep impairs your alertness, concentration, problem solving capabilities as well as ability to pay attention and reason.3 Poor sleep also affects the consolidation of memories and storing what you learned or experienced during the day.3

From a cardiovascular and metabolic point of view, sleep issues can also put you at greater risk of heart attacks, heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. There’s also a relationship between poor sleep and depression.3

Feeling terrible is bad enough, but a lack of sleep also ages your skin.3

Why are we not sleeping well?

According to the American Psychological Association, stress is the number one cause of short-term sleeping difficulties.4 But there are also lots of behavioural factors that contribute to poor sleep.

For example, drinking too much caffeine late in the day or evening. Alcohol. Being stimulated by electronic devices and blue screens. It’s what sleep specialists and experts refer to as ‘sleep hygiene’. If you’d like to know more about sleep hygiene, read this article.

Your sleeping environment also contributes to quality of sleep. Is your bedroom a comfortable temperature? Is it quiet or noisy? Is there too much light?

Issues with noise and light can easily be rectified. A good set of earplugs designed specifically for sleep can block out just the right amount of noise (including a snoring partner), while a well-designed sleep mask can block out unwanted light. Check out the Otifleks earplugs options here and the life changing Dreamlight Mask options here.

Hopefully you see how essential sleep is to a healthy, happy life. As the authors of the study mentioned above noted, we have public health promotions focusing on nutrition, smoking and exercise, yet nothing on the importance of sleep. So, it’s up to you to take things into your own hands and sleep your way to a better life.

If you’re interested in finding out more about sleep, check out the latest book by Sydney based Sleep Expert Olivia Arezzolo: Bear, Lion or Wolf available at Book Depository or Audible.

Sources:

1. https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.9476

2. https://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/researchernews/rn_sleep.html

3. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/10-results-sleep-loss

4. https://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why

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