If you’re like the majority of Americans, you are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each night. In fact, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, only 26 percent of people were getting 8 hours of shut eye each night. If this sounds familiar, you know exactly why having a full night of sleep is so beneficial.
Role of Sleep
Sleep plays an important role in our health and well-being for many reasons:
- Sleep is the time of day when your brain processes everything that happened over the course of the day. This is when the new pathways are formed that help you learn and form memories.
- During sleep, your body is busy healing and repairing body tissues, particularly the heart and blood vessels. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.
- Chronic sleep deficiency can affect how your immune system functions. You may notice that you get sick more frequently after not sleeping well for a while.
- Poor sleep can lead to you being in unsafe situations. For example, driving while exhausted can be very dangerous, as you are more likely to fall asleep, or have a reduced ability to make crucial decisions or react to a situation appropriately.
Sleep and Weight Loss
In addition to other health issues, getting a good night sleep can have an impact on your weight and ability to lose the extra pounds.
- Sleep helps to regulate the hormones that make you feel full or hungry.
- When sleep deprived, you may make poor food choices that are higher in fat, sugar or calories than you would ordinarily choose.
- Being tired makes it less likely that you’ll get out there and live an active life. It also makes it more difficult to exercise, making you prefer to spend time on the couch in front of the TV.
It’s not just adults. Many studies have been performed that looked at the association between sleep and childhood obesity, and a majority of them found a strong link between lack of sleep and increased weight. Researchers in New Zealand have found that the sleep habits of children can have effects long into adulthood.
While getting a full night sleep isn’t going to cause the pounds to just melt off, going to bed at a decent hour on the regular can make it easier to lose weight in the long-run. If you’re not sleeping well, try these tips to see if they can improve your sleep:
- Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning — even on a day off.
- Leave your phone in the other room
- Make sure that there is not light in your room, including from the display on the alarm clock
- Turn the TV off — no more falling asleep to the TV!
- Cut out the caffeine after noon.
If sleep deprivation is a problem that isn’t being fixed by these or other basic sleep hygiene suggestions, it may be time to check in with the doctor.
In the meantime, however, go ahead and take that nap!