An Inside Look at the Effects of a Regular and Healthy Sleep Pattern to get a Good Night’s Sleep
You’ve probably already heard or read about the many ill effects of insomnia or not getting enough sleep. Insomnia doesn’t just make you slower and weaker in the morning. If left untreated, it can cause a bunch of nasty health effects. These include an increased risk of getting serious heart problems.
But what happens when you overcome insomnia?
What happens to the mind and body when we do get our daily recommended hours of sleep?
Getting a good night’s sleep leaves you feeling fresh and ready to take on the world in the morning. Here are the different scientific reasons why:
1. Adequate Sleep Stabilizes Mood, Increases Awareness, and Contributes to Overall Mental Health
Without adequate amounts of sleep, neurotransmitters and stress hormones can wreak havoc on your ability to rationalize. This is why the sleep deprived is less in control of their thoughts and emotions.
In one study, it was found that when people were limited to just 4.5 hours of sleep per night (for an entire week), they self-reported as being angrier, sadder, more stressed, and more mentally exhausted. This was dramatically remedied when the study participants got to sleep normally after a week of sleep deprivation.
So the next time you catch yourself absolutely flaming about a particular issue or about to erupt at a co-worker, slow down and think: have you slept well lately? Even if you had a good night’s sleep last night, how have you been sleeping throughout the week?
The human body needs more than just a night of good sleep to recover from several nights of poor sleep. If you haven’t been sleeping well anytime during the last week, it could be a strong factor as to why you’re irritable and emotional.
As the above study illustrates, the solution is simple: try to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis.
In another study, this time involving 10,000 adults, it was found that people who had normal sleeping patterns were five times less likely to be depressed as compared to people who regularly can’t sleep.
This is pretty understandable because depression can be both a cause as well as an effect of chronic insomnia. As plenty of sleep experts have explained in the past, mental health and sleep are very closely tied to each other.
Getting enough sleep protects you not just from depression, but also against bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and ADHD.
2. Sleep Hastens Recovery and Keeps the Immune System at Optimum Condition
The long-standing belief that ‘sleep helps with healing’ is actually backed by years of scientific research.
When we get enough sleep, proteins, neurons, immune cells, glia cells, hormones, and other bodily chemicals with immune functions are better able to replicate and spread themselves throughout the body.
This is why when you’re sick, you feel a greater need to sleep. And the more you succumb to this need for sleep, the better the immune system can defend the body against infections. That’s why doctors always advice lots of bedrest as a way to hasten the healing process.
In relation to this, healthy sleep is also linked to reduced inflammation in the body. Apparently, when we lose even just a couple hours of sleep, it could trigger the key cellular pathway that synthesizes tissue-damaging inflammation. This means that healthy sleep can not just reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and gout, but also…
3. Healthy Sleep Protects You From Heart Disease and Other Serious Diseases
Apart from an altered inflammatory response, lack of sleep can also lead to increased oxidative stress, accelerated atherosclerosis, and neural autonomic control changes – biological mechanisms that, in turn, can lead to coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.
Additionally, lack of sleep also leads to the activation of chemicals that prevent your heart rate and blood pressure from lowering for extended periods of time.
If left untreated (with regular and healthy sleep) this can significantly increase your blood pressure during your waking hours, which will do a number on your cardiovascular health.
Seniors aren’t the only ones who should be concerned about the relationship between sleep and the heart. If you’re still young, but are already experiencing insomnia on a semi-regular basis, you could already be at risk of developing heart problems.
One study notes that adolescents who didn’t sleep well had higher cholesterol, larger waist sizes, higher BMIs, increased blood pressure, and of course an increased risk of developing hypertension – practically the recipe for a heart attack later in life.
So if you want to protect yourself from such risks, you know what to do.
4. Healthy Sleep is Necessary for a Healthy Life
Now you know the exact reasons why getting a good night’s sleep gives you a feeling of being ready for anything – because that’s exactly what it does: Regular and healthy sleep contributes to overall mental health, cardiovascular health, healing, immunity, and even decreases inflammation.
That’s why you should be doing everything you can to ensure that you regularly sleep for a healthy amount of time. Leaving insomnia untreated is bound to lead to some pretty dire and long-term health consequences.
Not to worry: because insomnia is such a common condition, there’s no shortage of practical information on how to deal with the problem.
Sleep Hygiene: Behavioral Adjustment Towards Healthier Sleep
Sleep hygiene is the term that sleep experts use to describe lifestyle changes and behaviors that you can adopt in order to attain and maintain regular and healthy sleep.
One of the most effective sleep hygiene practices prescribed by experts is a drug-free method than almost anyone can try. However, it can be expensive, in the sense that it costs a lot of willpower: regular exercise.
In a 2600-person survey, researchers found that 150 minutes of at least moderately vigorous exercise a week improves overall sleep quality by 65%.
Related research even found that the benefits of exercise to sleep didn’t stop when people exercised close to bedtime. No matter what time of the day people exercised, it benefited sleep.
The catch is that it has to be either moderate to vigorous or strenuous forms of exercise. In fact, according to the same survey, the harder they exercised, the better they slept.
So if you’ve been thinking about signing up for that yoga or jiu-jitsu class to lose weight, go for it. It could help regulate your awry sleeping patterns.
But if you’re in no condition to regularly engage in moderate to vigorous physical exercise, you can try these other sleep hygiene tactics:
- Avoid looking at electronic screens (laptops, phones, computers, TV) a couple hours before bedtime.
- Sleep in complete and total darkness.
- Stick to a strict sleep schedule no matter what.
Harvard scientists have found a link between exposure to sources of blue light and decreased production of melatonin – a hormone that’s responsible for activating the cues for sleep in the human body.
Also, the stimulation from all the apps you can access from your smartphone only wakes your mind and does nothing to help you sleep.
If you’re the type of person used to playing the TV in low volume and letting yourself drift to sleep, the problem is that level and pitch changes on the TV can still periodically rattle you awake.
Just turn off the TV; you can get the same sleepy distraction you need in the form of certain anti-insomnia podcasts.
Ditch the TV and the night light. Put up curtains the block out the light, or sew blackout lining to the curtains you have now. Get an eye mask for sleep.
Absolute darkness helps the production of melatonin and speeds up the onset of sleep.
This can be very difficult to pull off, but once you do manage to stick to your sleep schedule, the benefits are well worth it.
A regulated sleep schedule means regularly waking up at a predetermined time in the day – so you can say goodbye to sleep-interrupting alarm clocks.
Your circadian clock will also get stronger and better at making you sleepy during bedtime and giving you daytime energy when you need to move.
These are just some of the most common tried-and-tested sleep hygiene methods recommended by experts who have studied sleep and insomnia.
If you’re looking for drug-free and 100% safe ways to combat insomnia and get healthy sleep, try these methods out first.