Sleep is as vital to health and well-being as a good diet and exercise. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults between 18 and 64 require seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, "A third of U.S. adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep."
What Happens When We Sleep?
When you get good sleep, your body goes through four stages multiple times throughout the night. During different stages, experts believe that several biological processes occur that are crucial to health and well-being:
- Hormones are released.
- Muscles are repaired.
- Tissues grow.
- Neurons or nerve cells communicate and reorganize.
- Toxic byproducts that build up in your brain throughout the day are removed.
- Short-term memories are converted into long-term memories, and unneeded information is erased.
- Energy is conserved, reducing our caloric needs.
- Brain activity that regulates emotion increases.
- Hunger hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin, are controlled.
- Proteins that fight infection and inflammation are produced.
If we don't get good sleep and these processes don't occur each night, our bodies don't function well.
What is Good Sleep?
Sleep deprivation occurs when you don't get enough sleep, but the quality of your sleep is just as crucial to good health. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) reports that sleep deficiency can ensue when one or more of the following occur:
- You don't get enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
- You sleep at the wrong time of day
- You don't sleep well or get all the different types of sleep your body needs
- You have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or causes poor-quality sleep
A large percentage of Americans struggle to get enough quality sleep. For example, the Sleep Foundation reports that 10-30% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia. In addition, one survey found that 8.2% of adults took medication at least four times in the past week to help them sleep.
How Can Sleep Deficiency Affect Our Health?
Sleep deprivation has been linked to several health issues:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- High blood pressure
- Poor balance
- Weight gain
- Memory issues
- Mood changes
- Weakened immunity
- Low sex drive
The NHLBI also reports, "Sleep deficiency has also played a role in human mistakes linked to tragic accidents, such as nuclear reactor meltdowns, grounding of large ships, and plane crashes."
How to Improve Sleep
Understanding what happens within your body while you sleep and the potential risks of sleep deficiency are essential to good health, but many people struggle to get a good night's sleep. For example, as many as 15-30% of males and 10-30% of females meet a broad definition of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and 69% of men and 76% of women get up to go to the bathroom at least once per night.
What can you do to improve your sleep? Here are a few tips from the NHLBI:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Get at least 30 minutes of sunlight every day
- Exercise at least 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Don't nap after 3 pm
- Avoid nicotine and caffeine
- Avoid alcohol before bed
- Avoid large meals late at night
- If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep
- Use a comfortable mattress and pillow
- Keep the room temperature cool
- Avoid distractions, such as T.V.s and computers, when you go to sleep
- Relax before going to bed – read a book, listen to music, take a hot bath
- If you're awake for more than twenty minutes, get up and do something relaxing
- If you continue to have trouble sleeping, contact your doctor
A good diet is also vital to health and well-being, and My Neat Health products can help take the guesswork out of healthy eating. Our products are formulated by health experts and medical professionals and are suitable for people with various health needs. Use of meal replacements and health supplements should be done in consultation with your medical professional.