Last week the National Sleep Foundation released new sleep guidelines for people of all ages. Nutrition and exercise are both necessary for a healthy lifestyle, but in order to properly rejuvenate your body, rest your muscles, and live longer, you need to get the right amount of rest each night. The panel’s new recommendations are 7-9 hours for adults, 7-8 hours for seniors, and 8-10 hours for teenagers.
Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is vital, but too few of us actually make it a priority. Based on both the new and old guidelines, 40% of people in the U.S. do not reach the recommended amount of sleep each night. How you feel when you are awake depends largely on your quality of sleep. In addition to cutting down on grogginess, adequate sleep can boost your memory, brain function, physical safety, and overall mood. Though finding the time to get an adequate amount of rest can be challenging, it is a key part of a healthy lifestyle.
Although you may think of sleeping as a break for your mind, your brain is surprisingly busy throughout the night. While you are snoozing away, your brain is working to prepare you for the day ahead by creating new pathways to help you learn and better retain information. You can improve your problem solving skills and increase both your physical and mental learning potential with the proper amount of sleep.
Conversely, lack of sleep can actually impair function in some parts of the brain. You may be sleep deprived because of your job, but this could inhibit your creative thinking and decision making skills further, resulting in a vicious cycle. Sleeplessness can lead to dramatic mood swings, problems controlling behavior, and in some cases, it is even linked to depression and higher suicide rates, so sleep is a necessary step to maintain your mental health.
If you think you can be physically healthy while sleep deprived, think again. In addition to boosting your brainpower, it is a key factor in maintaining physical health. Sleep allows your body to repair your heart and blood vessels and helps to curb inflammation that is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis. Eating well can also be a challenge without sleep because it actually helps to balance the hormones that keep you feeling hungry and full. You will often feel much hungrier throughout the day when you are not getting enough rest and crave high-fat, higher calorie foods.
Even your immune system relies on sleep. People who get inadequate amounts of sleep are more prone to illness and less equipped to fight infection. With the proper amount of sleep, you will also recover faster and defend your body from harmful bacteria and viruses.
Skimping on sleep has become somewhat commonplace in the modern world. But meeting the daily recommendations for sleep will help you feel better and reach your full fitness potential. If you are having trouble sleeping or simply can’t find the time, here are a few tips to get you back on track:
Falling asleep and waking up at the same time each day is a great practice. If you want to change your bedtime, you can do so incrementally by going to bed 15 minutes earlier or later each night until you’ve reached the best time for you.
- Set a schedule: Falling asleep and waking up at the same time each day is a great practice. If you want to change your bedtime, you can do so incrementally by going to bed 15 minutes earlier or later each night until you’ve reached the best time for you.
- Cut caffeine: Drinking too much coffee or other caffeinated beverages can trigger insomnia and keep you up much longer. If you can’t sleep, try reducing or completely cutting out caffeine .
- Try a nap: Naps aren’t just for toddlers and college students! If you have issues finding a 7-9 hour block for sleep, napping throughout the day can help you meet your daily requirements.
- Get comfortable: If you can’t sleep, your bedroom might be the issue. Surrounding yourself with calming colors, avoiding bright lights and screens, or adding in white noise with a fan or sound machine can be helpful.
- Stay organized: Keeping your life and schedule organized can help you sleep better at night. In addition to the calming effect of a clean bedroom, you will feel less stressed and have more time at night to relax and rejuvenate with sleep.
Allowing your body to recover isn’t just important at night. Also remember to recover properly after your workouts. Click here to read our blog post on post-workout recovery!