“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” – E.J. Cossman
The Importance of Sleep
Are you getting enough sleep? Is it the right type of sleep? Is the quality of sleep affecting your health? Many important functions occur during sleep that affects your health. Firstly, sleep restores cellular function and repair, synaptic plasticity, and memory processing. Secondly, sleep influences mood regulation and energy consumption, specifically fatty acid oxidation or fat burning (1). So why is it that 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems and sleep less than 6 hours a night? Human beings are the only mammal that deliberately deprives themselves of sleep because of common lifestyle factors. 40% of the U.S. working population is sleep deprived, therefore, contributing to a 10-20% increase in healthcare utilization.
Sleep Restores the Body and Mind
Sleep is the period of time where the body can recover from daily stresses. Without this time the body is unable to repair itself and remains in a constant state of stress (1). As mentioned above, sleep is used for restoration which includes muscle growth, tissue repair, and protein synthesis. Therefore, these repair functions of sleep are particularly important to maintain brain health and function. Subsequently, during sleep, the brain undergoes cellular cleaning, which when limited has been found to be related to neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s (2). During sleep, electrical activity in the brain transitions to wave formations associated with higher brain function (3). With this intention, sleep is essential for humans to perform both physical and cognitive tasks throughout the day. The brain also takes what was learned during the day and converts it into long-term memory during sleep. Therefore, without adequate sleep, memory is impaired (4).
Sleep Patterns Affect Mood
Additionally, sleep restores mood and energy levels. Lack of sleep has been shown to diminish the positive effects of rewarding experiences and amplify negative experiences while also causing irritability (5). Therefore, making the human brain think that things are a lot worse than they are. Overall, sleep has the ability to improve body function and plays a role in every system within the body. So, the question still remains, how do I get more of it?
Improve the Quality of Your Sleep
Here are a few things to do today that will help improve both sleep quality and quantity (6):
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and naps if struggling to sleep at night
- Limit blue light in the evenings
- Keep it cool – the body needs to drop its core temperature in order to fall and stay asleep
- Regularity is key. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
- Have a wind-down routine and keep your bed for only sleep
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night
To help with sticking to a sleep health goal, try tracking it on WellStyles! Visit myvalleyschools.org for more information on Valley Schools, our wellness program, and how we can help you get and stay healthy!
- Walker, M. P. (2018). Why we sleep: unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. New York, NY: Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
- Ju, Y. E., Lucey, B. P., & Holtzman, D. M. (2014). Sleep and Alzheimer’s disease pathology–a bidirectional relationship. Nature reviews. Neurology, 10(2), 115–119. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrneurol.2013.269
- M. P. (2009). The role of sleep in cognition and emotion. Annals of the New York Academy of Fisher, J. P., Young, C. N., & Fadel, P. J. (2009). Central sympathetic overactivity: maladies and mechanisms. Autonomic.
- Walker, M. P., & van der Helm, E. (2009). Overnight therapy? The role of sleep in emotional brain processing. Psychological Bulletin, 135(5), 731–748. doi:10.1037/a0016570
- Walker, M. P. (2009). The role of sleep in cognition and emotion. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1156(1), 168-197.
- Ballantyne, Sarah. Go to Bed: 14 Easy Steps to Healthier Sleep. Canada: 2015