As the school year starts across the U.S., the long, lazy days of summer appear to be winding down. With that comes busier schedules and the pressure to pack more in with less time. It’s easy to begin shortchanging your body of the sleep it needs. But how does that affect your health?
Here’s a quick look at why sleep is so important to your health, along with a few tips for getting to bed on time and sleeping well.
How sleep impacts your health
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) states that while you sleep, your brain develops new pathways to help you learn and remember information and get ready for the coming day. It also affects your emotions and ability to cope with everyday life. For students, a good night’s rest impacts their ability to learn. Case in point, WebMD mentions that a study showed that lower-performing students—those who earned Cs, Ds, and Fs—slept 25 minutes fewer each night, and on average hit the hay 40 minutes later than their A and B grade earning classmates.
But sleep doesn’t only impact brain function and emotional coping skills, it also directly affects your physical health. The NHLBI notes that as you slumber, your body repairs heart and blood vessels balances out hormones, normalizes blood sugar levels, promotes healthy growth, and boosts the ability of your immune system to respond to illness and infections.
How much sleep is enough sleep?
Rarely, you meet people who only need around four hours of sleep each night. According to Business Insider, though, these “short sleepers” make up only 1% of the population. The rest of us need much more sleep.
Most adults need anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep each night, with those 65 years of age and older needing the least, and newborns requiring a huge amount—14 to 17 hours a day. The amount of sleep required slowly drops off as kids get older, but even teenagers still need, on average, eight to 10 hours of sleep each day. Take a look at this Sleep Foundation chart of the recommended hours of sleep by age to see how many hours you should be getting.
Tips for a better night’s sleep
Although insomnia presents a real issue for some people, the majority of us who don’t get enough sleep can make a few minor changes to improve our ability to get sleep and the quality of that sleep. These changes include:
- Put the electronics away an hour or two before you go to bed. The Washington Post notes that many studies have found that the blue glow of electronic devices, when used in bed or right before bed, has the power to disrupt our sleep patterns.
- Establish a regular bedtime and getting to bed routine. Bedtime schedules and routines are not just for kids. Huffington Post explains that both adults and kids benefit from a regular bedtime schedule and a getting to bed routine that informs your brain that it’s time to get some sleep. The article even posts an infographic based on information from the National Sleep Foundation that shows when to stop certain activities, like exercising or eating dinner, to ensure a better night’s sleep.
- Use the bedroom for sleeping. Many of us have TVs in our rooms or work from our beds late at night. Besides exposing your eyes to those glowing screens, you’re taking the sleep sanctuary of the bedroom and turning it into a multi-purpose work and recreation room.
For even more great tips for sleeping well, take a look at the Sleep Foundation’s website, and this list in particular.
Tomorrow, when you wake up refreshed from a great night’s sleep, you’ll have plenty of energy to make my crisp and crunchy Easy Coleslaw Recipe.