Sleep is a universal requirement among human beings. It is required for repairing damaged tissues and regaining a sense of balance. The quantity of sleep you get and the quality of your sleep have a direct effect on your mental and physical health. Melatonin is the neurochemical responsible for regulating your sleep-wake cycle. In addition to this vital function, sleep helps your body heal itself with its antioxidant and immune-boosting qualities. Increasingly, studies are showing that lack of sleep or sleeping poorly has a dramatically adverse effect on our health and our ability to function.
Unfortunately, it’s hard for many of us to get enough sleep and often the sleep we are getting is not “good” sleep. For example, stress greatly affects the quality of our sleep. If you are stressed, your sleep is off; if your sleep is off, along with various other detrimental health effects, your hunger/fullness cues tend to be off as well. It’s hard to get a good sense of what your body is hungry for, what your body needs, and when it is sated. This leads to making poor food choices or overeating. Research also shows that not getting enough sleep can cause your body to have trouble processing glucose.
Lack of sleep also impairs our willpower and ability to maintain focus. Being tired can significantly impair your judgment and ability to react. It can also impair your memory and your mood. Some studies equate driving while sleep deprived as being as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
Increasingly, the consensus is that there are ideal times for when we should be sleeping and, unless you are a teenager or a shift worker, the optimal sleep hours are between 11pm and 7am. (If you are a shift worker, this article has some good insight and advice for you:
There are a number of ways you can improve both the quantity and the quality of your sleep. This includes the following strategies:
- Keep a regular bedtime or pre-sleep routine;
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet;
- Avoid too much cognitive stimulation;
- Cut down on your caffeine intake and definitely avoid consuming any at least 3-4 hours before bedtime;
- Take time to relax before sleeping (meditation, deep breathing exercises, reading, light yoga, etc.);
- Avoid watching TV or using a computer