The Case for Sleep: Why Getting Quality Sleep is Essential for Good Health
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
Good nutrition, an active lifestyle complete with regular exercise, minimal stress, and healthy relationships are the core of health. However, the more sleep deprived we are, the clearer it becomes: getting quality sleep nightly is essential for health as well.
How Too Little Sleep Affects Your Health
According to Author and Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley's Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, the two main pillars of health, diet and exercise, crumble when the third pillar, sleep, is short-changed.
Short term consequences of not getting the requisite 7 hours of sleep per night include:
- Inability to recall information quickly
- Withdrawal from every day activities due to fatigue
- Increased risk for motorized vehicle accidents, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Long term consequences provide even more reason to prioritize sleep. Surveys and research suggest routine low sleep (less than 7 hours) increases adults risk of:
- Heart Disease and Hypertension
- Depression, Anxiety, and other Mood Disorders
- Reduced Immune Function
- Lower Life Expectancy
Tips for Getting the Sleep You Need
In his book, Why We Sleep, Walker offers these tips:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even after a bad night’s sleep or on the weekend.
- Keep your bedroom temperature cool; about 65 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for cooling your body towards sleep. Wear socks if your feet are cold.
- An hour before bedtime, dim the lights and turn off all screens. Blackout curtains are helpful.
- If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something quiet and relaxing until the urge to sleep returns. Then go back to bed.
- Avoid caffeine after 1 p.m., and never go to bed tipsy. Alcohol is a sedative and sedation is not sleep. It also blocks your REM dream sleep, an important part of the sleep cycle.
For vitality and longevity, commit to making sleep a strong pillar of health.
Ben Simon, E., & Walker, M. P. (2018, August 14). Sleep loss causes social withdrawal and loneliness. Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30108218
Colten, H. R. (1970, January 01). Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders. Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/
Killgore, W. D. (2010). Effects of sleep deprivation on cognition. Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21075236
National Transportation Safety Board. (n.d.). Reduce Fatigue-Related Accidents. Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/mwl/Pages/mwl1-2016.aspx
Sleep and Mood. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2019, from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/mood
Walker, M. P. (2018). Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. New York, NY: Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Information presented by W(h)ealth should not be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Consult a doctor and/or medical professional before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.