After a long day, there’s nothing quite like falling into bed for the night. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is important for more than just your energy level — it’s also important for your overall health. How can your sleep schedule affect your health and why is it so important for you to get a good night’s sleep?
What Constitutes a Good Night’s Sleep?
First, what is actually considered a good night’s sleep? The answer to that will depend on your age. Adults need anywhere from seven to eight hours of sleep a night, while teens need upward of eight to 10 hours a night. The younger you are, the more sleep you need — babies sleep between 12 and 16 hours a night!
In general, you want to try for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Why is this so important?
Sleep Helps You Live Longer
Not getting enough sleep puts you at higher risk for death — on a genetic level. Studies have found that getting less than seven hours of sleep every night shortens your telomeres. Telomeres are found at the end of your chromosomes and indicate a variety of different things, including age and items you’ve been exposed to in your environment. Artificially shortened telomeres cause the cells to age faster, putting you at higher risk for a variety of problems.
Sleep Helps You Lose Weight
Sleep is a vital part of your everyday routine, but did you know it could affect your weight as well? One study found that lack of sleep puts you at higher risk for obesity. Not getting the correct amount of sleep throws your body’s hormones out of whack, among other things, which makes it harder to lose weight and more likely that you will become obese.
Getting enough sleep also helps you eat fewer calories, because it helps to keep the hormones that stimulate and suppress appetite in check. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more ghrelin — the hormone that stimulates your appetite — which causes you to eat more calories.
Sleep Improves Your Immune System
Your immune system isn’t as strong if you’re not getting enough sleep. A study was conducted to see how a lack of sleep affected the immune system by exposing 153 participants to the cold virus. Those who didn’t get enough sleep during the study were three times more likely to develop a cold than those who were getting enough sleep during the night.
Sleep Makes It Easier to Interact Socially
Much of our ability to interact socially is dependent on our ability to recognize and respond to facial emotions and body language. Studies have found that sleep deprivation impairs our ability to recognize these social cues. It becomes difficult or impossible to socialize correctly without these cues.
How to Set up a Regular Sleep Schedule
If you’re like a lot of adults, you probably go to sleep when you’re tired and wake up when you’re not tired anymore, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting the proper amount of sleep. How can you set up a regular sleep schedule?
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Try to get up at the same time every morning.
- Banish all electronics from your bedroom. Get an alarm clock to help you wake up instead of using your phone’s alarm.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine in the hours before bed.
- Don’t eat heavy meals within two hours of bedtime. If you need a snack before bed, make it something light and healthy.
- Make your room as comfortable and relaxing as possible — pillows, blankets, whatever makes you comfortable.
- Your bedroom is just for sleeping. Don’t do anything else in bed. That includes eating and working.
- If you read before bed, do so with a physical book, or a non-backlit e-book like a Kindle Paperwhite. Keep blue light — tablet, phone, computer screen — out of the bedroom.
This might take a while to get used to. It takes upwards of 21 days to create a habit and longer than that to make it stick. Take the time to set up your routine and stick to it, even if it feels awkward at first. We should all make keeping a regular sleep schedule a habit because it’s important for your health. If you don’t have one already, then what are you waiting for?