Why Does Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Really Matter?

You may easily recognize your mind is foggy or you feel moody when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, but you could be doing more harm to your body. Quality sleep is vital to your health. Even a mild sleep disorder can cause issues including depression, fatigue, irritability, blood pressure, and can increase your risk for diabetes. According to the American Sleep Association, approximately 30 percent of adults have insomnia, and it is the most common sleep disorder reported.

Consistent, quality sleep patterns can have a positive impact on your entire life, including:
  • Improving your focus—sleep can affect your cognitive processing, alertness and concentration.  
  • Reducing stress—insufficient sleep can cause mental and physical issues which can increase stress in daily life.
  • Improving your memory—studies show that the quality of sleep has an impact on learning and memory. Sleep has a role in memory consolidation, which is essential for learning new information and memory retention.
  • Lowering your blood pressure and risk for heart disease—a study in the 2011 European Heart Journal found that lack of sleep puts you at a greater risk for dying of coronary heart disease and stroke.
  • Boosting your immune system—sleep helps your body make cytokines, a protein that targets infection and inflammation.
  • Helping you maintain your weight—lack of sleep has shown to increase the risk of obesity in children and another study showed adults who slept five hours or less per night were 32 percent more likely to gain a lot of weight compared to those who slept at least seven hours per night.
  • Improving your mood—studies show that people with insomnia are 10 times more likely to have clinical depression and anxiety.
  • Reducing your risk of diabetes—lack of sleep can increase insulin resistance, a risk factor for the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Tips for better sleep

The amount of sleep you need varies by age. Infants need as much as 19 hours per day, but as you age that number goes down considerably. Sleep quality is more important than sleep quality—you should wake up feeling refreshed. Ideally, you should get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.

The following tips can help you get a quality night’s sleep:
  • Follow a consistent sleep schedule—go to bed and wake up at the same time every night, even on the weekends. If you like to sleep in, don’t go to bed until later in the night. Too much time in bed can increase sleep issues. 
  • Sleep in a cool, dark room—a comfortable sleep environment promotes better sleep. Your body has to cool down for the brain to fall asleep, so set your thermostat to a cool temperature. 
  • Don't take long naps—short 15 to 20 minute naps can help you refresh during the day, but a long nap can make your night time sleep more fragmented.
  • Avoid screen time before bed—electronics and televisions have a blue light that stimulates the brain. At least one hour before bedtime, turn all electronics off. If you need something to help you wind down, turn on a low light and read a book. 
  • Meditate before bed—regular meditation can help the mind slow down and prepare for sleep. There are online applications that can teach you how to meditate.
  • Call a sleep specialist—a sleep specialist can evaluate your sleep issues and determine a plan to help you get enough sleep. Seeing a specialist doesn’t mean taking a medication, it can mean just the opposite, many specialists use cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation. A specialist may also determine that you don’t have insomnia, but rather sleep apnea.
It's important to seek treatment if you suspect you might have a sleep disorder. Our sleep experts offer many options to diagnose sleep disorders and find the right treatment for you. Click for more information about The Christ Hospital Sleep Centers

Dr. Kanagarajan is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in critical care medicine, internal medicine, pulmonary disease, and sleep medicine. His areas of special interest are: sleep medicine, pulmonary disease and critical care. He serves as the medical director for The Christ Hospital Sleep Centers. Dr. Kanagarajan is a member of the American College of Chest Physicians and the American Association of Sleep Medicine and he is well-published in his field.