Like eating, drinking and breathing, sleeping is a basic human need. When put in those terms, the importance of sleep takes on new meaning, becoming part of the foundation of good health. After all, most of us assume missing some shut eye is no big deal. From time to time, that may true, but ongoing poor sleep can take its toll on your health.
Good vs. Bad: How Sleep Affects Health
Sleeping provides your body an opportunity to restore balance to many of its systems. For example, your body works to repair your heart and blood vessels while you sleep. That’s why chronic sleep deficiency can be linked to stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Sleep also helps to maintain balance of the hormone insulin and the hormones that regulate appetite. Missing out on dreamtime can affect your body’s ability to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which is why it’s linked to an increased risk for diabetes. Likewise, those not getting enough sleep may struggle with their appetite and put on weight.
Good sleep also helps to maximize problem-solving skills and enhance memory. That’s because while you sleep, your brain is forming new neural pathways to help you learn and remember information. The opposite is true if you’re not getting enough quality sleep. You may have trouble remembering things, problem solving or controlling your emotions.
Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep:
- Avoid caffeine late in the day
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Create a daily exercise regime
- Start winding down an hour before bed
- Strive for an ideal sleep environment: dark (try a blackout shade) and cool (ideal is 65°—though your ideal may differ)
- Routine! Try a hot shower or bath before bed (discover the reason this works in our article The Science of Serenity)
Sometimes, even with good sleep habits, you might need help getting better sleep. Check out our article Getting a Good Night’s Sleep where you’ll learn about valerian root, essential oils and other supplements to help you sleep.