Many people today suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. That problem partially comes from the fact that many don’t keep a regular sleep schedule. Of course, many other factors play into the insomnia epidemic. These variables include stress, an inability to quiet the mind, unhealthy eating habits, and more. However, keeping a regular sleep schedule can help improve your life and health. And this habit will make it easier to tackle stressful situations.
A few restless nights won’t hurt. But when it becomes a regular occurrence, it can impact your health in long-lasting ways. People throughout the world suffer from insomnia. Because of the rise in technology and the stresses of life, many of us can’t seem to shut off our brains.
The statistics prove we need a sleep schedule
According to the American Sleep Association, here are some statistics about insomnia.
- Nearly 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder
- Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, with around 30% of adults having short-term insomnia
- Around 10% of adults have long-term insomnia
- Almost 40% of people are so sleep deprived that they fall asleep during the day
- About 5% report falling asleep while driving (the most dangerous outcome from insomnia)
Studies show 35% of adults get less than 7 hours of sleep per night, which is the recommended minimum for adults. Certain age groups seem to report getting less sleep:
- 37% of people ages 20-39 get less than 7 hours of sleep
- 40% of people age 40–59 report problems with sleep
According to data from Sleep Cycle, people seem to suffer at an increasing rate worldwide from insomnia. Their research shows that no country gets a consistent 8 hours of sleep anymore. In the 1940s, people got 8 hours of sleep per night on average, but now they clock in at just 6.8 hours.
Here is the recommended amount of sleep per age group according to the American Sleep Association:
- Adult: 7 – 9 hours
- Teenager: 8 – 10 hours
- Children 6 – 12 years: 9- 12 hours
- Child 3 – 5 years: 10 – 13 hours (including naps)
- Child 1 – 2 years: 11 – 14 hours (including naps)
- Infants 4 -12 months: 12 – 16 hours (including naps)
Proper sleep impacts our lives in every single way, from our productivity to relationships to mental health. Without adequate sleep, we don’t have the energy needed to carry out necessary tasks or even enjoy leisurely activities. Below, we’ll go over how a regular sleep schedule can improve your health so you can live life to the fullest.
Here’s how a regular sleep schedule can boost your health and prevent insomnia:
Humans need routine and structure to perform their best. After all, we evolved to wake with the sun and fall asleep as it sets, and the modern world seems to have disrupted this delicate cycle. Our bodies have gotten so confused and out of touch with what they really need to thrive, and we can see that with the rise in so many diseases.
However, it all starts with the basics. So if you can recalibrate your circadian rhythm, this will help everything else fall into place.
The link between a regular sleep schedule and metabolic illnesses
First, let’s talk about how an irregular sleep schedule can impact your health. A study published in Diabetes Care found that a lack of a bedtime routine and inconsistent sleep patterns could lead to metabolic syndrome, which can raise your risk of developing heart disease.
According to the research, a person’s risk of developing metabolic syndrome increased 27% with every one-hour increase in variability of sleep duration from night to night. It also increased by 23% with every one-hour increase in the variability of bedtime.
Consider the findings of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis study. Participants wore devices that tracked their sleep for a week and filled out questionnaires about their sleep habits and routines. Researchers measured their metabolic risk factors at the beginning of the study, including a large waistline, high blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels, and low levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol. If a person has several of these conditions, it raises their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Researchers followed participants for six years and found that those who had irregular sleep schedules had a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome at the follow-up, according to lead author Tianyi Huang. The research also found that African-Americans, those suffering from depression, shift workers, and smokers showed higher variability in sleep schedules in the study.
Understanding our internal clocks
The biological clock in humans is very sensitive to changes, so when a person disrupts their natural cycle, it impacts important metabolic processes. Erratic sleep schedules can cause irregularities in other areas of life, such as mealtimes, which can further worsen health consequences. Studies have also found that disrupted sleep over a long period of time can increase the risk of mental illnesses. Sleep deprivation and disorders such as anxiety and depression have strong correlations because a lack of sleep can severely affect moods and cognitive functioning.
Connecting sleep and neurological diseases
Some research even shows that a person’s risk for severe neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s increases as sleep regularity decreases. Poor or disrupted sleep causes harmful beta-amyloid proteins to build up in the brain, which can lower cognitive functioning and even lead to Alzheimer’s if left unchecked.
So, as much as possible, try to keep the same sleep schedule each day. Even on weekends, stick to it as closely as you can, because it can impact your health during the week if you sleep in or stay up too late on your days off. Huang says that he pushes his bedtime back by only 30 minutes on weekends so he doesn’t throw off his body clock too much. He gets up around the same time on weekend mornings.
For optimum health, the study suggests not to change your sleep duration by more than 120 minutes from day to day, and don’t alter bedtime by more than 90 minutes. Across the board, researchers found that changing sleep time and duration by more than this increased risk for metabolic syndrome dramatically.
Benefits of adhering to a sleep schedule
So, keeping a regular sleep schedule can impact your health in the following ways:
- lower risk of metabolic syndrome
- lower risk of diabetes
- decreased risk of having a stroke or heart disease
- keeping circadian rhythm balanced
- less daytime sleepiness
- decreased risk of chronic fatigue
- better productivity during the day
- lowered risk of mental illness
Tips to help you get the shut-eye your body needs
Here are some tips on getting a good night’s rest if you suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia:
1 – Set aside time to sleep
As we said earlier, try as best you can to keep a regular sleep schedule. Your body loves routine, so you’ll feel much more refreshed and ready to take on the day if your circadian rhythm remains balanced. On weekends, try not to deviate too much from your sleep routine. You’ll pay for it during the week by feeling fatigued during your workday.
2 – Avoid technology before bed.
Turn off your phone and computer a couple of hours before bed. The blue light from the screens will confuse your brain and make it think it’s daytime when you really should be winding down for bed.
3 – Don’t eat heavy foods before bed.
Try not to eat anything a couple of hours before bed. Your body can focus more on sleep if it doesn’t also have to digest a lot of food while you rest. If you feel hungry at night, eat something non-sugary such as nut butter or other protein-rich foods.
4 – Don’t drink a lot before bed.
Avoid drinking a lot of water or tea before bed, as this can cause nighttime waking if you need to use the bathroom. Also, avoid alcohol since it raises insulin levels, which will lead to disrupted sleep.
5 – Practice sleep restriction.
If you have a lot of trouble falling and staying asleep, try to fall asleep only when you feel tired. Make sure to use your bed only for sleep, so your brain will associate the bed with feeling sleepy.
If you work, watch TV, or get on your phone in bed, your brain will associate the bed with activities. Each of these behaviors can lead to sleep disruptions. Increase your sleep time by 15 minutes each night to figure out how much sleep you really need.
As you can see, chronic sleep deprivation and irregular sleep can really affect your health. We should start prioritizing sleep again and remember that we need a certain amount each night for optimal functioning. You’ll start to see your life improve as you focus on sleep because you’ll feel more refreshed, alive, and ready to tackle the day ahead.
Make sure to follow a regular sleep schedule even on weekends, because your body will have a hard time catching up on sleep during the workweek. Make your bedroom a sanctuary, where you leave all the stress and worries at the door and allow your body to rest. Good sleep hygiene will help improve all areas of your life tenfold.