How Important is Getting Enough Sleep?

How Important is Getting Enough Sleep?

Sleep – it’s something we all dream about getting more of! And who can blame us? Consistent, good-quality sleep is vital for our overall health and wellbeing.

Gone are the days where sleep was considered a time that the body simply shut down. Nowadays, we are more aware that quality sleep habits are just as important as a balanced diet and regular physical activity.

In this post, we’re going to answer a few key questions, including what affects our quality of sleep and how important is getting enough sleep for our health and wellbeing? 

What Affects Our Quality of Sleep?

Consistent nights of low-quality sleep influences your mood, health and relationships. If you’re regularly waking up feeling low, irritable, fatigued and hazy, you may be sleep-deprived.

Here are some factors that can lead to sleep deficiency:

  • Hours of Sleep: Adults need to sleep for about 8 hours every night.
  • Mattress: There a few tell-tale signs that you need a new mattress, and an outdated one leads to a poor night’s sleep. You should invest in a high-quality, comfortable mattress that meets your needs.
  • Lights: Too much light when you’re trying to sleep makes it difficult for your body to feel restful.
  • Blue Light: Electronic devices like televisions, smartphones and computers emit blue light, which makes it difficult for your brain to switch off.
  • Sleep Schedule: An inconsistent, bedtime routine can make it difficult for you to unwind and fall asleep.
  • Alcohol: Consuming alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it affects the quality of your sleep and disrupts your sleep cycle.
  • Caffeine: Consuming too much caffeine, such as coffee, tea or cola drinks, too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. Caffeine disrupts your natural body clock, leading to poor quality sleep cycles. 

Why is Getting 8 Hours of Sleep Important?

Sleeping for approximately 8 hours is important for every adult. Studies have concluded that 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep regularly is recommended for anybody over the age of 18. This is the optimal amount of time for your body to rest and recharge.  

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine published their sleep recommendations for both children and adults, suggesting the number of hours different age groups should sleep for every 24 hours:

4 months to 12 months
12 to 16 hours (including naps)
1 year old to 2 years old
11 to 14 hours (including naps)
3 years old to 5 years old
10 to 13 hours (including naps)
6 years old to 12 years old
9 to 12 hours
13 years old to 18 years old
8 to 10 hours
Over 18 years old
7 to 9 hours

Why is Sleep Important for Health?

  • Immune System: 

Sleep deprivation disrupts and weakens your immune system. As a result, you’re more likely to pick up illnesses, like the flu, and your body will find it more challenging to fight off viruses.

  • Heart Health:

Regularly disrupted sleep can be detrimental to our heart health. Without deep sleep, our bodies can’t undertake biological processes properly. Your body regulates blood pressure and blood sugar levels when you sleep. So, a consistent and high-quality sleep schedule is vital to lowering your risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

  • Obesity: 

Studies have shown that sleep deficiency can increase your likelihood of gaining weight and becoming obese. When you sleep, your body regulates the hormone levels that make you feel hungry. Your levels of ghrelin (the hormone that makes you feel hungry) rise with a lack of sleep, and your levels of leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full) falls. As a result, your appetite fluctuates, and your brain will struggle to control your hunger levels.

A poor sleep routine can also cause a drop off in energy levels throughout the day. Lethargy tends to discourage individuals from getting active, which can also contribute to weight gain.

  • Mental Health:

Sleep deprivation can influence your mental health significantly. A lack of deep sleep can alter how parts of your brain operate. As such, sleep deficiency can lead to depression, anxiety and other long-term mood disorders. 

Why is Sleep Important for Your Brain?

  • Concentration: 

With a severe lack of sleep, your brain’s ability to concentrate diminishes. Struggling to focus makes day-to-day life more challenging, whether that involves a day at the office or a day of study; it can stop you from reaching your full potential.

A lack of concentration can also be dangerous as you’re more likely to cause or be involved in an accident. For example, sleep deprivation can lead to drowsy driving, which is extremely dangerous for everybody on the road.

  • Decision Making: 

Just like consuming alcohol and drugs, sleep deprivation impacts your ability to make decisions and good calls of judgement. According to research, you’re more likely to make impulsive or risky choices when you are sleep deprived. Such decisions can impact your health, safety and relationships.

  • Emotional Intelligence: 

A significant lack of sleep can influence your brain’s emotional intelligence. Your ability to pick up on social cues and read social situations correctly may weaken. Also, you may struggle to read other people’s emotions and control emotions of your own. 

  • Creativity: 

REM sleep is critical for our ability to think creatively. REM stands for ‘rapid eye movement’, and it’s one of the stages of the sleep cycle. Your deepest and longest period of REM occurs at the end of a night’s sleep. So, to boost your creativity and your ability to think outside the box, you need to get eight hours of rest consistently. 

Why is Sleep Important for Your Body?

  • Growth & Development: 

A consistent sleep routine is important for everybody, especially for children and teenagers. Growth hormones are primarily produced when children are sleeping, so sleep deficiency can hinder their physical development. Slowing or stunting a child’s growth can not only affect their height but the strength of their organs, too.

  • Cell Repair: 

When you enter deep sleep, your body works to repair cells and muscle tears by releasing certain hormones. So, if you have a wound or muscle injury, or want to grow your muscle mass, you need to sleep. Otherwise, your body won’t be able to heal correctly.

  • Athleticism: 

Getting enough sleep is critical for all levels of athleticism. Regular exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, and your sleeping habits will dictate your motivation and ability to be active.

A proper sleep routine will help you feel more energised, which is important for exercise. It will also help you improve your mental wellbeing, reaction times and coordination.

Why is Sleep Important for Your Memory?

Sleep and memory are inextricably linked - sleep is critical for memory acquisition, memory consolidation and memory recall.

Memory acquisition (learning new information) and memory recall (retrieving learned information) take place when you are awake. When you are sleep deprived, your brain’s ability to learn new things and recall old memories diminishes.

Memory consolidation is the brain’s process of storing information, and it takes place when you are sleeping. You take on board a lot of new information every day. So, your brain needs time and energy to store it properly, especially as consolidation is a complex process.

Circumstances of life may sometimes mean we find our sleep less than it should be, either in length or quality. Short term disturbances are normal, but should you experience poor sleep quality on a regular basis, you should try to make some lifestyle changes.

If you've been struggling to get to sleep, please check out our ten tips for a healthy night time routine and how to choose the right mattress for you.