Of the body’s many processes, sleep is among the most important. Without quality sleep, the body cannot maintain healthy bodily function. Unfortunately, many do not get the quality of sleep needed to sustain optimal wellness. To combat the growing issue of declining sleep quality, we must recognize the importance of sleep, identify what good quality sleep is, and incorporate sleep-supporting practices into our everyday lives.
Why You Need Good Quality Sleep
We need good quality sleep to maintain many elements of wellness. For example, research shows that quality sleep is a requisite for healthy memory, mood, weight regulation, cognitive function, and immune activity. Conversely, a lack of quality sleep has been found to encourage a decline in these and other bodily processes. The overall importance of sleep can be seen in its relation to the following bodily processes.
Reduced sleep quality is closely tied to weight gain. One study found that children and adults who did not get quality sleep were respectively 89 and 55 percent more likely to become obese. In contrast, studies have found that those who get adequate quality sleep eat fewer calories and are less hungry, which may result in a healthier weight. It is believed that this is due in part to the hormone-regulating effect of sleep. As sleep quality improves, so too does the activity of appetite influencing hormones such as ghrelin and leptin.
Poor sleep quality is also tied to greater risk of heart disease and stroke. Research suggests that those who get good quality sleep are far less likely to experience heart disease or stroke when compared to those who do not get enough sleep.
Immune function can decline rapidly in the presence of sleep deprivation. Even a minor decrease in sleep quality can cause major disruptions of immune activity. One study shows that individuals who slept less than seven hours were nearly three times more likely to develop illness than those who slept eight hours or more. Poor sleep quality may also increase inflammatory markers, encourage cell damage, and increase the risk of chronic illness.
Regularly having good quality sleep is needed to maintain physical proficiency. Some studies have found that athletes who slept longer than their teammates exhibited greater athletic ability and physical reliability than those who got less sleep.
Most recognize that a lack of sleep can lead to crankiness and irritability. However, poor sleep quality can cause far more than temporary grumpiness. Poor sleep quality may lead to a loss in cognitive ability, focus, and memory. Research shows that low sleep quality may increase the occurrence of mood disorders such as depression. This is reinforced by findings that about 90 percent of patients with depression report having issues with sleep quality.
With such a high degree of influence of these and other bodily processes, getting good quality sleep should be a priority in everyone’s life.
What is Quality Sleep?
Although most people recognize when they don’t get a good night’s rest, they often cannot describe the characteristics of quality sleep. To get quality sleep, we must first know what it is. Below are some markers of quality sleep:
- Staying asleep for the most amount of time while in bed. Ideally, when in bed, a person is sleeping for at least 85 percent of the time spent there.
- Falling asleep within 30 minutes of choosing to sleep or getting into bed.
- Waking at most once per night and if sleep is interrupted only remaining awake for 20 minutes or fewer prior to getting up in the morning.
These factors provide a general outline for quality sleep and may be a metric of quality sleep in your own life. However, recognizing quality sleep is just the first step. To achieve the goal of better sleep quality, we must take action to improve sleep.
6 Tips to Improve Sleep Quality
There are several ways to improve sleep quality ranging from minor changes of habit to easing underlying sleep inhibitors. Below are six easily implemented ways to improve sleep quality.
Optimize Your Sleep Environment
The quality of your sleep is highly influenced by your environment. Factors such as light, noise, and temperature can disrupt sleep. Try to optimize your surroundings by reducing light as much as possible, minimizing disruptive noises, and keeping the sleeping area at a cool but comfortable temperature.
Exercise can dramatically improve sleep quality. Ideally individuals spend at least 30 minutes outside being active. Doing so has been shown to support multiple elements of sleep. However, keep in mind that engaging in physical activity immediately prior to bedtime can make falling asleep more difficult.
Anxiety and stress can create a worrisome mindset that keeps you awake at night. If chronic stress is a problem, try practicing mindfulness, taking up meditation, or engaging in a relaxing hobby before bed. Consider enlisting the aid of a professional and focus on eliminating regular sources of stress in your life.
Make a Sleep Schedule and Stick to It
Establish a time in your schedule reserved solely for sleep. To get your recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, include a buffer of about 30 minutes to account for the time it takes to fall asleep. Making sleep a priority and sticking to a consistent schedule improves sleep quality.
Avoid Eating or Snacking Before Bed
High-sugar foods, alcohol, and caffeine can have a notable negative effect on sleep when eaten too close to bedtime. Not only can these foods make it harder to fall asleep, they may also interrupt sleep and make it difficult to get back to sleep.
Avoid Stimulants Before Bed
Exposure to televisions, computer screens, and phones while in bed can reduce sleep quality. Do your best to avoid looking at electronics within an hour of bedtime. Instead, consider reading a book or listening to a calming program or podcast as part of your nightly ritual.
Discuss Sleep Supplements
If you’ve implemented many or all of the above tips, and still struggle falling asleep and/or staying asleep, it may be beneficial to speak with your physician about implementing a high-quality sleep supplement until you can discover the underlying cause of your sleep issues. We recommend HoltraCeuticals’ Sleep Tight.
Sleeping Your Way to Better Health
Good quality sleep is a critical component of wellness. This is exemplified by the many processes and systems affected by sleep. Unfortunately, many do not get the quality of sleep they need to feel and function at their best. Resolving poor sleep quality requires that people recognize the elements of quality sleep and implement practices that encourage them. Readers of this article should now be able to define good quality sleep and use several tools to achieve it. Use what you’ve learned to support better sleep and encourage a healthier you!
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