Sleeping is important to everything we do, but for some reason it gets placed on the bottom of the priority list of most individuals. A healthy amount of sleep each night is about 7 hours for adults, but more than 35% of Americans get less than this each night. Sleep is not only important to mental health, but also to physical health and emotional health as well.
- Sleep helps our body go through its internal processes: Our body is at decreased levels of activity internally during sleep, thus allowing for our body temperature to decrease and conserve energy, and for our blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate to be regulated. In addition, kidney function slows, urine production decreases, and increases production of the growth hormone, which is involved in digestion, cell repair, and growth.
- Sleep is important to mental health: Those of us who do not get enough sleep tend to engage in poor decision-making, risky behaviors, and irrational thinking.
- Sleep is important to immune health: A lack of sleep can actually put us at greater risk of getting sick since certain proteins called cytokines are released during sleep. When we are sick, some of these cytokines need to be released when we have an infection, inflammation, or are under stress in some way. Sleep deprivation can reduce the production of cytokines, so when we do get sick, less of these proteins will be released to help us get better and less infection-fighting antibodies and cells are produced.
- A lack of sleep can cause injury to yourself or others: If we don’t get enough sleep we can become drowsy during the day and this can make our daily tasks such as driving, operating machinery or equipment at work, crossing the street, caring for others, preparing food, or handling hazardous materials difficult and dangerous. A lack of sleep can affect our concentration, focus, and reflexes, and can cause car accidents as well as mistakes at work that could affect others’ health such as giving them the wrong medicine if you work in healthcare. The National Department of Transportation says that about 1550 fatalities and 40,000 non-fatal injuries occur each year from drowsy driving.
So, how can we get more sleep?
- Get to bed and wake up the same time each day to create a routine your body can get used to.
- Avoid caffeine and large meals before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine
- Exercise regularly
- Decrease television time at night and replace with more shut-eye time
- Get medical attention for chronic anxiety or stress that is keeping you up at night
- Make a to-do list and prioritize what needs to be done each day, and what can wait until tomorrow so you can get to bed at a decent hour.
- Make sleep a priority!