Although people spend a significant amount of their time sleeping, most people seem to forget how important getting sleep is. Restful sleep is something people take for granted instead of trying to understand how much it affects their life. There is such thing as getting too much or too little sleep.
And even if you sleep enough, you always have to consider how well you sleep. You might sleep for seven to nine hours and still wake up tired. That’s because the quality of your sleep matters just as much as the quantity. Many things can affect how well you sleep. From psychological disorders all the way to how your day goes. You have to take into account even sleep disorders, like insomnia.
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t exhaust yourself and count on those seven hours of sleep to save you. You have to make a conscious effort to ensure that the quality of your sleep is the best it can be. Even though sleep issues haven’t been discussed a lot in the past, scientists are beginning to underline just how vital sleep is for us. That’s precisely why even scientists from Harvard explain the importance of restful sleep.
Why Do You Have Trouble Sleeping?
While many things can affect the quality of your sleep, chronic sleep deprivation is one of the main issues. Chronic sleep deprivation is a condition caused by getting insufficient sleep or experiencing sleeplessness over an extended period. It can vary in severity, and, in some cases, its cause could be an underlying sleep disorder.
Chronic sleep deprivation can be primary or secondary. When we talk about primary sleep deprivation, that’s when the sleep you get is a problem by itself. Because you don’t get enough sleep, or that sleep is not qualitative, it causes other issues in your life. Secondary means the lack of good sleep is an unrelated issue. Certain medical conditions, like anxiety, can cause sleep deprivation. The symptoms include dark under-eye circles and the inability to keep your eyes open in both cases.
Besides that, you can experience head nodding, irritability, lack of energy, trouble concentrating, and yawning. Another common condition is insomnia. That’s when you feel like you need and want to sleep, but you just can’t. And even if you fall asleep, you have trouble staying asleep or sleeping as late as you would like. Insomnia affects around 35% of adults, and it’s an issue that people often overlook. Insomnia often results from bad habits and even psychological problems.
Stress, an irregular sleep schedule, and anxiety can cause this disorder. Moreover, having an unhealthy lifestyle can also lead to cases of insomnia. Napping late in the afternoon, sleeping more than you should, and using technological devices can all affect your sleep. Not all cases of insomnia are the same. For some people, the problem is falling asleep (sleep onset). In other cases, the problem is staying asleep (sleep maintenance). Insomnia is also a common issue for teens and older people.
Many other sleep disorders can affect people in all age groups. For example, aging is a common factor that causes a decrease in sleep quality. Besides insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation, people can also suffer from sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Sleep apnea causes a blockage in the upper airways, which may cause you to wake up abruptly. When it comes to restless leg syndrome, that causes an uncomfortable feeling which can also disrupt your sleep.
Why Is Restful Sleep Important?
Those are just some of the issues that are related to sleep disruption. But you don’t need to suffer from a long-term condition to have bad sleep habits. It’s enough to act indifferently towards your sleeping habits, and you’ll suffer the consequences. But, as with all issues, there are many ways through which you can improve the quality of your sleep.
1. Restful Sleep Improves Your Health
An adult needs to sleep an average of seven to nine hours every night to be healthy. Children and teenagers need considerably more sleep to develop and be healthy fully. But getting the recommended amount of sleep isn’t enough. If your rest isn’t of good quality, you won’t get the full benefits. Meaning if you find yourself waking up often, having trouble sleeping, or you sleep too lightly, that means you have an issue.
In that case, you should plan to see the doctor, as you might have a sleep disorder. What’s important to know is that lack of sleep leads to serious health issues. If you sleep less than six hours a night, you are at higher risk of developing diabetes. You also risk having heart issues, a stroke, suffering from cognitive decline, and even death in some cases.
Lack of sleep also leads to weight gain and an increase in cortisol levels. Recently, scientists have identified that it activates a brain cleaning function when your brain is at rest. During your sleep, a fluid runs through the lymphatic system. That fluid has been shown to wash away a harmful protein, beta-amyloid. When this process doesn’t occur, the protein builds up, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline.
The problem with regularly getting too little sleep is that people can tolerate sleep deprivation. You start being less aware of how tired your brain and body are, and you get increasingly less sleep. After some time, getting too little sleep becomes routine, and you risk developing all the conditions mentioned above.
Getting too much sleep can also be a problem. This might seem paradoxical, as most people associate a lot of sleep with being rested. But that’s not the case. Like too little sleep, oversleeping can lead to diabetes, heart issues, stroke, and death. Oversleeping is often caused by depression or not getting too much sleep the night before. So, in many cases, solving sleep deprivation also solves oversleeping.
When you struggle with sleep disruptions, the main thing you need to do is force yourself to stick to a strict sleep schedule. You also need to make sure you have a healthy lifestyle. Don’t drink too much caffeine, exercise, and don’t use technology too much. If your sleep patterns don’t improve, you will need to consult a doctor.
2. Sleep Reduces Stress
Sleep is tightly linked to a person’s cortisol levels. When you aren’t rested or don’t get enough sleep, your cortisol levels shoot through the roof. High cortisol levels are good in the short term, improving concentration. But in the long-term, they lead to hormonal imbalances and stress. If you are stressed, that takes a toll on your health.
Stress increases the heart rate and shuts down some systems to conserve energy. If you put your body through this every day, you will inevitably struggle with heart issues, increased blood pressure, memory loss, and many other problems. When you get enough sleep, you allow your body to go through the full sleep cycle. In that cycle, the body has the time and resources to solve everything that’s off in your body.
One of the main things that get regulated is your cortisol levels. That means you will be better equipped to deal with stress the next day. And, most importantly, you won’t wake up stressed. As a by-product, being rested improves your memory. When you have restful sleep, the mind can process all the stimuli it has taken in while you were awake. It strengthens neural connections, which allow you to form memories. That means while you sleep, you create new memories, which is vital for the learning process.
3. Restful Sleep Impacts Your Weight
While your weight isn’t necessary at all from a beauty standpoint, it plays an essential role in your health. Fluctuating a few pounds isn’t an issue at all. But, when you become severely overweight or underweight, that’s when you’ll have to deal with some health issues. And sleep connects to weight gain and calorie regulation.
In 2020, a study found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night have a 41% increased risk of developing obesity. Weight gain takes place because of many factors. For example, increased levels of leptin and decreased ghrelin levels affect your weight gain. The imbalance in hormones causes an increased appetite.
Moreover, to compensate for lack of sleep, your body will ask for an increased calorie intake. Sleep is crucial for calorie intake that trainers often recommend that athletes sleep up to ten hours. If that’s not bad enough, you might not feel like exercising if you don’t have enough energy. This way, you’ll gain calories without any way to offset that excess.
Weight gain, especially when it gets to obesity, has dire impacts on your health. It causes hypertension, type two diabetes, coronary heart disease, and even death. It even affects your mental well-being, leading to low quality of life, depression, anxiety, and more. The only way to avoid unwanted weight gain because of disruptive sleep patterns is to regulate your sleep. Make sure you have a clear sleep schedule and focus on having a healthy lifestyle.
Final Thoughts on the Importance of Restful Sleep (and How to Get It)
Sleep is an integral part of a person’s life, but many overlook its importance. It seems natural that most people don’t think they could ever mess it up. But having a restful sleep is much more complicated than you might think.
Many factors can interfere with restful sleep. The most common are sleep disorders, like insomnia and chronic sleep disorder. But an unhealthy lifestyle, stress, and an irregular sleeping schedule can also decrease the quality of your sleep. From your health to your stress levels and weight, sleeplessness can harm your quality of life.
If you find that your sleep isn’t as qualitative as you might like, you need to make a conscious effort to set a clear sleep schedule. Make sure you have a healthy lifestyle, and if further issues arise, visit a doctor.