Sleep isn’t the 3rd pillar of good health, alongside diet & exercise, it’s the foundation.

Dr. Matthew Walker

We have 24 hours in a day & we’re supposed to sleep for 8 of them. We spend nearly a third of our lives asleep, so it’s easy to see why it’s important. However, we don’t treat sleep like the foundation of good health, which it is.

Last week, I wrote about the most important factors when it comes to boosting your immune system. Maintaining a healthy diet, regularly exercising, negating stress, & getting sufficient sleep are all extremely important when it comes to our health, but sleep is deserving of a more in-depth look.

Why is Sleep an Afterthought?

In today’s society, sleep is often an afterthought. We have busy schedules, responsibilities, urges to have fun & enjoy life. Sleep comes after that & much more for many people. We need to flip that script. Lack of sleep is one of the driving factors leading to a less & less healthy overall society. According to the CDC, which means take this with a grain of salt, a third of the population was sleep deprived as of 2014. Sleep deprived is defined as under 7 hours per night in this particular case. Typically, 6-8 hours is recommended, & sleeping for anything under 6 hours per night consistently begins to have negative implications.

Healthy Sleep is Good for Business

Lack of sleep doesn’t only effect your health, it effects your attitude & productivity as well. Whether somebody owns a business, works in a career; as a manager or general employee, or does freelance work, their performance is crucial. Sleep is the foundation of that performance. Everybody needs to be on top of their game in order for things to go smoothly & employers should find ways to ensure their employees are getting sufficient sleep. Studies show that humans have a drop in alertness between around 2 & 4 PM. This suggests that we should nap around then & regroup.

Business owners & employers should allow a break during this window when plausible. In business, we learn tons of new skills & constantly practice the skills we already know. People always say “Practice Makes Perfect,” but this is not the case. Practice matched with sufficient sleep makes perfect (or at least significantly better). When the human brain works super hard on something, mentally or physically, & then gets to benefit from sufficient sleep afterwards, it’ll repeat any patterns from the task you worked on. You’ll wake up better than before & inadequate sleep would have shown the opposite result. This is probably why people choose to “Sleep On It” when facing a difficult decision or task.

5 Pillars of Sleep

Memory

Sufficient sleep helps our memory & on the flip-side; lack of sleep hurts our memory. Memory is such an important aspect of life & being sharp can take you many places. Remembering responsibilities, important dates, tasks, etc. make having a strong memory essential to living a quality life.

Creativity

Being creative can also take you many places & help you live a quality life. Inadequate sleep leads to inadequate ideas. When your mind is tired, it’s tough to focus & create. It’s also best to be creative when solving problems, so creativity is essential in life as well.

Mood

We’ve all experienced how our mood shifts when we didn’t get enough sleep the night before. We get frustrated & annoyed quicker & our energy levels might just be too low to be fun, be productive, be happy, etc. Stress plays a huge role in our mood as well, but when we get quality sleep in enough quantity, it becomes easier for us to handle the stress & not let it get to us. Our moods can be affected by short-term sleeping issues as well as chronic sleep disorders.

Decision Making

Like I said, problem-solving is amplified when running on sufficient sleep. The same can be said about decision making. We focus more, are able to think more clearly, & have the energy to dig deeper on anything that needs to be cleared up or decided before making a great decision. After 20 hours of being awake without sleeping, people are considered to be just as impaired as when they are drunk.

Health

Maintaining a healthy diet is important, but it means nothing if you aren’t getting sufficient sleep. There’s not much room for error when it comes to the relationship between sleep & our health. Even just a few days of insufficient sleep can result in appetite imbalances, higher risks for infection, increased blood pressure & many more health issues. Sleep is so important that late night shifts are listed as a carcinogen.

Health & Sleep Relationship

Here’s a few things people should know about sleep (or lack of sleep):

  • Consistent lack of sleep (under 6 hours per night) can age a person by 10+ years.
  • Consistent lack of sleep leads to many health issues; cancer & obesity for example.
  • A study was conducted in which individuals could only sleep for 4 hours for 1 night. The individuals had a 70% reduction in their cells that actually fight & kill cancer cells.
  • Adjusting to new sleep schedules isn’t an easy thing to do in general. When we lose an hour of sleep to daylights savings, we see a 24% increase in heart attacks. When we gain an hour, there’s a 21% decrease in heart attacks.
  • As mentioned in my previous article all about How To Boost Your Immune System, limiting healthy adults to 6 hours of sleep per night instead of 8 can suppress our immune system genes.

Diet & Sleep Relationship

There are countless steps people can take to improve their quality & quantity of sleep. Eating healthy is obviously one of them. Despite this, people continue to eat unhealthily. In case this might help readers, a high sugar – low fiber diet will potentially mess with your sleep significantly. People should also avoid going to bed hungry. Hungriness signals to the brain that you are going through a period of famine. This comes from hundreds of years of humans having to hunt & gather in order to eat, so it’s still locked into our DNA. The brain focusing on finding the next meal takes away from its ability to sleep sufficiently.

Tips for Sufficient Sleep

There are plenty of measures people can take to improve their sleep & ensure that they are getting a sufficient amount of sleep as well as the best quality of sleep possible. First, routines are very helpful. If you’re able to be on a regulated sleep schedule, the quality of your sleep will improve. Along with this, you should focus on making sure you’re familiar with where you’re sleeping as much as possible. Only 50% of our brains get into a deep sleep when sleeping in an unusual or different environment, such as a hotel. This naturally happens because the brain wants to be ready to react to any dangers quickly & efficiently.

A Few More Tips

Our bodies naturally associate darkness with night time, which essentially means darkness with sleeping. Try to avoid lights for about an hour before trying to go to sleep. Yes, your phone counts. Read a book, meditate, relax, etc. Anything that doesn’t involve lights in your eyes right before trying to sleep is fair game. Also, try to keep cool when sleeping. The brain needs the body’s temperature to drop by 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit in order to sleep. Contrary to popular belief, naps do not make up for the lack of sleep from the night before. Don’t bank on a nap to help catch you up on your sleep.

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