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The Health Benefits of Finding the Right Amount of Sleep [And How to Get There]

by Pam Silvia

If you are not conscious of the number of hours you sleep every night, we implore you to start taking more notice. The health benefits of a good night’s sleep are numerous—from increased work performance to reduced feelings of anxiety, it is evident that sleep health can make a big difference in your quality of life.

Alarmingly, research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that large numbers of Americans experience problems associated with sleep deprivation, leading the organization to declare sleep disorders a public health epidemic.

So, what is the right amount of sleep? According to the CDC, adults require at least 7 hours of sleep per night. For an overview of health benefits as well as tips for attaining the right amount of sleep, read on!

NOTE: If you suspect you suffer from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea and insomnia, be sure to contact your primary care physician.

Part 1: The Health Benefits of Finding the Right Amount of Sleep

Get sick less often

One of the top health benefits of a good night’s sleep is, well, good health. A study conducted by researchers from UC San Francisco, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that people who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold when exposed to the virus compared to those who sleep at least seven hours.

During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which promote slumber. Certain cytokines need to upsurge when you have an infection or inflammation spurred by stress, and lack of sleep may diminish the production of these defensive cytokines. Furthermore, disease-battling antibodies and cells are diminished during periods when you don't get enough rest.

Reduced stress and improved mood

Evidence suggests that sleep deprivation boosts levels of a substance in the brain called adenosine, which makes brain cells less likely to fire, promotes sleepiness, and suppresses arousal.

In addition, lack of sleep hinders activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which commanders complex thinking, processing of emotions, and interpretation of social signals, so you can imagine the toll it could have on your social life.                                  

In terms of sleeplessness affecting your mood, you’re probably aware that lack of sleep is often a symptom of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. Anxiety-induced stress increases agitation, causing your mind to be unable to turn itself off, your heart to beat faster, and your breathing to be quick and shallow.

It should be noted that the right amount of sleep can curb the development of a mood disorder since sleeplessness can negatively contribute to anxiety and depression.

NOTE: If you suspect that the depth and duration of your sleep is aggravated by a mood disorder, be sure to contact your primary care physician.

Elevated performance at school and work

It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep is tantamount to good grades and top-notch work performance—at least, it’s what we preach to our restless kiddos when they refuse to turn in by 9 p.m. on a school night.

Children, in particular, are susceptible to experiencing difficulties with attention, activity, learning, and behavior if they don’t get the right amount of sleep (check out the CDC’s recommended hours of sleep for children across distinct age groups).

Sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice when life gets busy with heavy workloads, irregular schedules, and parenting. With many more Americans now working from home than ever before, the boundaries between one’s work life and home life have become blurred, which goes to show that attaining the right amount of sleep shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. 

There’s this fabled notion that one’s work ethic is made to be even more impressive when your REM takes a hit. We’re here to remind you that sleeplessness leads to burnout, which is ultimately detrimental to your cardiovascular health, energy levels, and ability to enjoy successes and quality time with loved ones. In the long run, insufficient sleep will negatively impact your work performance with a decrease in sustained levels of productivity, focus, and emotional stability.

Part 2: How to Get the Right Amount of Sleep

Soak in the sun every day

Now that we’ve extolled the health benefits of a good night’s sleep (and the side effects from a lack thereof), we’d like to turn your attention to ways you can catch your ZZZs without a hitch.

Studies suggest that enjoying hours of direct sunlight helps regulate a person’s circadian rhythm, and time spent in the great outdoors is linked to lower stress levels. Since sunlight triggers your body’s production of vitamin D, your body stands to be healthier—think stronger bones and decreased risks of heart disease, depression, and diabetes. With your body functioning more efficiently, you better believe it translates into better sleep.

Sleep experts recommend engaging in outdoor activity earlier in the day so that your body naturally unwinds in the evening, closer to bedtime.

Establish a consistent meal schedule

You’ve probably heard that eating close to bedtime is synonymous with self-sabotage, and the research backs that. Studies show that eating dinner (and post-dinner goodies) toward the end of the day is associated with deteriorated slumber, so make sure you time your last meal to allow two to three hours for digestion before it’s “lights out” for the day.

If you’re up to the challenge, avoid big meals that will weigh down on your energy and be more difficult for your body to digest. Instead, focus on foods that are rich in protein to hold you over between meals.

Foster an adequate sleep environment

Zero light + zero noise = zero distractions. It’s about that simple when it comes to this tip. Studies suggest that the right amount of sleep is attained when we sleep in a cool-temperature room that is dark and silent, and this seems to be the case for people across all age groups.

Also, because every human is different, further steps may need to be taken to accommodate your unique circadian rhythms and sensitivities. This could mean setting up an essential oil diffuser or humidifier, investing in a white noise machine, or purchasing a weighted duvet. Whatever the case, make sure any modifications to your sleep environment ensure it to be your (and, if applicable, your sleep partner’s) nighttime nirvana.

And please remember to ditch the electronics once it’s one to two hours before bedtime—the luminous blue-light glow of these devices’ screens can impact the brain’s production of melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates our sleep cycle.

Create a bedtime routine

Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to forming healthy habits, which is why we recommend establishing a nighttime routine to propel yourself toward deeper, faster slumber.

Ritualistic activities such as running a warm bath, executing your five-step skin-care routine, or reading a book can help your body and mind switch to bedtime mode. It’s really that easy.

Amid your journey toward better sleep, it’s important to assess the quality of the bed you sleep on. Check out our online catalog and peruse our thoughtfully curated selection of name-brand mattresses to see what our business can do for you. Call our experts today—we are always happy to assist.