“I slept like a log”, “Don’t lose any sleep over it”, “Get your beauty rest!” “I was out like a light!”
For all of the ways we talk about sleep, most of us don’t truly understand the full depth of how sleep (or lack there-of) affects us. Below, we’ll explore why getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things that we can do, how it affects our wellness, plus, a few ways to help you get the sleep you deserve.
ARE WE COUNTING TOO MANY SHEEP?
If you feel like you consistently don’t get a good night’s rest, you’re not alone. About 1 in 3 adults report getting lower than the recommended amount of sleep each night. In a 2022 Gallup survey, only 32% of Americans said they got “excellent” or “very good” sleep; 35% described their sleep as “good”; and 33% said their sleep was “fair” or “poor.”That’s over a third of American adults saying that they get “fair” or “poor” sleep.
That’s a lot of tired people trying to make it through the day! But what does that mean for your health and well-being?
…[I]f not getting enough sleep is a regular part of your routine, you may be at an increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, poor mental health, and even early death.
Even one night of short sleep can affect you the next day. Not only are you more likely to feel sleepy, you’re more likely to be in a bad mood, be less productive at work, and be involved in a motor vehicle crash.
It’s pretty crazy what missing one good night’s worth of sleep can do. So now that the scary news is out of the way, take a deep breath and don’t worry because just like the lack of sleep can affect you negatively, getting better sleep has enormous benefits!
BENEFITS OF QUALITY SLEEP
Improved Memory and Cognitive Function
Don’t rely on brain-building puzzles and exercises, one of the best things you can do to improve your memory, ability to learn, and cognitive function is to get better sleep.
In a study conducted by the Sleep Foundation, getting enough hours of high-quality sleep fosters attention and concentration, which are a prerequisite for most learning. Sleep also supports numerous other aspects of thinking including memory, problem-solving, creativity, emotional processing, and judgment
So how does it work? During sleep, the brain consolidates memories and processes information, helping you to remember and learn new things. Lack of sleep, or low-quality sleep, has the opposite effect and can impair cognitive function, making it more difficult to focus, concentrate, and make decisions. Poor sleep over prolonged periods of time has even been linked to increased risks of cognitive decline and dementia. A recent CDC study found that people with inadequate sleep had nearly 2.5 times increased odds of frequent mental distress compared with those with adequate sleep.
Simply put; getting a little better sleep each night can keep your brain function in top-notch condition.
Inflammation? Yep! Did you know that while you sleep, your body is working to keep you healthy? Part of that is by reducing inflammation, which is a natural response to injury or infection. Chronic inflammation can lead to a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Sleep plays a vital role in reducing inflammation in the body by giving your brain’s “housecleaning system”, the glymphatic system, a chance to do its work.
In the deepest sleep phases, cerebrospinal fluid rushes through the brain, sweeping away beta-amyloid protein linked to brain cell damage. Without a good night’s sleep, this housecleaning process is less thorough, allowing the protein to accumulate—and inflammation to develop. Then, a vicious cycle sets in. Beta-amyloid buildup in the brain’s frontal lobe starts to impair deeper, non-REM slow-wave sleep. This damage makes it harder both to sleep and to retain and consolidate memories. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/sleep/how-sleep-deprivation-can-cause-inflammation)
In other words: longer sleep gives your brain more time to clean out chemical build-up that causes inflammation, which will in turn make it easier to sleep more deeply.
Allowing more time for your brain’s “housecleaning” system to work also means…
Boosts Immune System
Remember that fluid that rushes through your brain, cleaning as you sleep? That fluid also includes cytokines, one of the proteins that helps fight infection as well as inflammation. When you are getting deeper, longer sleep, you’re giving your body a chance to repair itself and rest, in turn, boosting your immune system function. Additionally, while getting good sleep, breathing and muscle activity slows down, freeing up energy for the immune system to perform critical healing tasks. Giving this combination of bodily functions while you rest more time to work gives an extra boost to your immune system, and in turn, helps keep you healthy.
But sleeping more also…
This one feels like a no-brainer; we’ve all experienced irritability due to lack of sleep. Getting that good night’s rest can quickly reverse those negative effects, helping your mood return to normal. That’s because sleep and mood are closely connected. Lack of sleep can lead to irritability, mood swings, and anxiety. On the other hand, healthy sleep can improve mood, reduce stress levels, and promote emotional stability. If you go through your day feeling foggy, groggy, grumpy, or just a bit “out of it”, lack of sleep could be the culprit.
Beyond feeling more cheerful, better-quality sleep…
Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight
People often look to diet and stress as contributing factors when trying to change the number on the scales. But did you know that getting enough sleep can also help you maintain a healthy weight? Sleep deprivation disrupts hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism, meaning you feel more hungry, but at the same time your body isn’t metabolizing food as quickly.
Less sleep can also impair your mental clarity to make good decisions, and increases the reward-desire need in your brain. (It’s easier to say “no” to that second piece of cake when you’re able to think clearly and aren’t tempted to do so as much). Each of these can lead to overeating and weight gain. Through a number of different ways, getting enough sleep can help control your appetite and reduce the risk of obesity.
Weight is also a contributing factor in the risk of chronic diseases. (Are you starting to get the feeling that all of these things are deeply interconnected? Good, because they are!)
Better sleep also…
Reduces the Risk of Chronic Diseases
This one is a doozy. As we age, our risk of chronic diseases increases. As noted in reports by the CDC, insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.
Through a combination of the benefits mentioned above: reduced inflammation, boosted immune system, stronger cognitive function, improved mood, and maintaining healthy weight, your body is reducing your risk of chronic disease!
Clearly, sleep affects almost every aspect of our lives. It’s important to prioritize sleep as much as you would prioritize other aspects of your health, such as diet and exercise.
Knowing how sleep affects you is helpful, but what do you do if you’re struggling to achieve more restful sleep? In other words; how do you actually achieve better sleep?
HOW TO GET BETTER SLEEP
We’ve all heard of crazy remedies and wives tales on how to sleep better; and let’s face it, much of the advice seems geared toward people who exist in a fantasy land with no demands and perfectly planned schedules. Here are some attainable, CDC and National Institute of Health-proven methods on getting the sleep you deserve.
While it may go against what we’ve trained our bodies to do, try to go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning. Yes, this means even on weekends. But research shows that having a consistent sleep schedule helps your brain know when to be tired, and when to be awake, so consider making it a goal, until your body clock resets and it becomes second nature.
Let it go
No, really. Reliving that awkward junior high dance or replaying the way you wish you had responded to a certain situation won’t change the reality of it. You’re human – it happened – it has probably happened to thousands of other people. Move on. Let. It. Go.
Stop playing the “what if” game
Everyone does it – overthink and over-plan to feel more in control of situations that are often out of our control. It’s unproductive and negatively impacts all aspects of well-being – especially when sleep quantity and quality is involved. The next time your head hits the pillow and your mind takes off, interrupt that negative pattern with positive techniques to help relax and reset: make a mental list of what you’re grateful for (big and small), try deep breathing exercises and practice isolation relaxation (tune into and relax each muscle group, one at a time, toe to head). With a little practice, that overactive mind will start turning off with your bedside lamp.
Provide a comfortable sleep setting
Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature. This helps your body and mind feel at ease.
Take a non-habit-forming, consistent sleep aid
Sleep aids have been around for years, but many of them can be habit-forming and hard on your body, with many unwanted side-effects; while non-habit forming natural alternatives like Melatonin have varying degrees of success from person to person.
If you’re looking for a natural sleep aid alternative to Melatonin, Ambien® (zolpidem) Lunesta® (eszopiclone) Rozerem® (ramelteon) without the unwanted side-effects, KAVVA Edibles SLEEP gummies are great way to help you fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer. In our interview with Dr. Ross Campensa (below), he explains the best time to take a KAVVA sleep gummy so you can have a restful night without waking up feeling groggy.
Turn the screens off
While it may not be practical to remove the TV or phone from your bedroom altogether, experts recommend turning off all screens including TVs, computers, and phones at least an hour before you go to sleep. Give yourself a chance to relax your eyes, and mind, and mentally prepare for sleep.
Avoid consuming certain things before bedtime
Thinking about a glass of wine before bed? Might be a good idea to hold off. For better sleep, it’s best to avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol prior to bedtime. Metabolizing these things can interrupt sleep patterns and reduce quality of sleep over the night.
Get some exercise
Go for a walk, take the stairs more often, visit the gym a few times per week. Being physically active during the day is a great way to help you fall asleep more easily at night.
Any combination of these solutions can help improve your quality of sleep. With so many tools at your disposal, achieving more-restful and deeper sleep – and better health – is easier than ever!