When we think about what living a healthy lifestyle means, often we’ll think of eating a diet rich in fresh foods and vegetables – and getting plenty of exercise. What we often overlook is if we’re getting enough high-quality sleep.
Seventy-two percent of U.S. adults say they get sufficient sleep. Yet think of your daily routine: how many hours are you actually asleep? And do you feel rested and refreshed when you wake up?
Consistently getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night is an important component of a healthy lifestyle for adults. And yet so many of us don’t prioritize sleep in our daily routines: we’ll push our bedtimes back by scrolling on or phones or finishing a movie. We’ll stay up late on the weekends and wonder why Mondays feel so hard.
Certainly, there are sleep interruptions we have to prioritize, like taking care of a newborn baby or a sick family member. Individuals working on a shift may also find alterations in their sleep pattern that leave them without enough shut-eye.
But as we consider our overall health habits, it’s important not to overlook high-quality sleep as a critical investment in our long-term wellbeing.
A good night’s rest can help your body’s immune system recharge to be able to defend against viruses and bacteria. Individuals who are sleep deficient may have trouble warding off common infections.
Sleep helps the body regulate the hormones that control how you feel full or hungry. When you’re sleep deficient, the level of the hormone that makes you feel hungry goes up, and the hormone that makes you feel full goes down. This means that when you’ve had a terrible night’s sleep, you’re going to feel hungrier in the morning – which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Keeping blood sugar in check
Not getting enough sleep can affect how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood sugar levels. If you don’t get enough sleep, your blood sugar levels may be higher than normal. This could increase your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Supporting muscle repair and physical growth
Rest is a critical part of the muscle recovery process, as sleep helps to trigger a hormone that helps repair cells and tissues, and boosts muscle mass. For children and teens, the hormone that promotes their healthy growth and development is triggered by deep sleep.
Regulating emotions and mental health
Not getting a good night’s sleep can certainly leave us grumpy the next day. We have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling emotions and behaviors, and coping with change when we don’t get enough sleep.
But continued sleep deficiency can affect our mental health in the longer term: it has been linked to depression, suicide and risky behaviors. Sleep deficiency is considered to be a symptom of depression. But addressing and improving the quality of sleep may have positive impacts on mental health. For example, research indicates that depressive symptoms can decrease when sleep apnea is treated.
Follow this series here on MIBluesPersepctives.com to learn more about ways to get better sleep for a healthier life.