Have you ever had a few too many late nights and seen the consequences in the mirror? Everyone knows that a full night’s sleep helps us look and feel our best — but many don’t fully realize the importance of sleep for adults.
We break down why developing healthy sleep habits for adults is one of the best things to improve your life, both awake and at rest.
Your Cells Work the Night Shift
The first thing to understand about the importance of sleep for adults is that your cells do their most important work overnight. When the sun goes down and your mind rests peacefully, your cells start the heavy lifting of repairing your muscles, organs, and brain cells. We often think of this when considering children’s sleep habits, as they are growing fast. But as adults, these cells are still working hard.
Tiny little repair workers called microglia work hard to repair damaged cells and fight off infection. Microglia increase your brain’s “plasticity” (the process of rewiring neurons to support memory, motor function, and development), which is crucial for healthy brain function. Like tiny gardeners, they clear out debris from your cells and build new, stronger connections so that your brain and body can operate at their prime.
When you don’t get enough sleep, microglia don’t get a chance to do their crucial work. The result is cell damage and inflammation which may lead to chronic disease.
If you’ve noticed extra pounds piling up and can’t figure out why; you may want to consider updating your night routine. Countless studies have found a significant link between weight gain and not practicing healthy sleep habits for adults.
The reasons behind this are numerous. Starting with the most obvious, a lack of sleep leads to decreased cognitive function and poor decision-making. When you’re short on sleep, your frontal lobe (the part of your brain responsible for impulse control) can’t operate at its prime. A sleep-deprived body seeks out things that feel easy and comfortable. That means you’re more likely to skip the healthy cooking and head towards the drive-through window. Plus, being constantly exhausted means you probably won’t find the motivation to stick to your exercise routine. When lack of sleep becomes a regular habit, your entire healthy routine goes out the window.
Your body’s internal processes also play a role in sleep and weight management. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, can be a powerful enemy against weight loss. Not getting enough sleep leads your body to trigger cortisol spikes. Even when you’re doing everything else right, excessive cortisol levels can sabotage your efforts by telling your body to conserve fuel, also known as holding on to fat.
Insulin is another hormone that can wreak havoc on your system. After a few days without sufficient sleep, your insulin function starts to go haywire. The body’s response to insulin can become impaired, which affects its ability to process fats from the bloodstream. Instead, they get stored as body fat. This is just one reason sleep is so important for adults.
Getting enough sleep won’t necessarily help you lose weight, but it will definitely help you avoid the devastating consequences that not sleeping can have on your metabolism.
Protect Your Body Against Chronic Disease
As if brain function and weight loss weren’t reason enough to comprehend the importance of sleep for adults, researchers have found a major link between poor sleep quality and chronic disease. A systematic review of 15 different studies found that people who don’t get enough sleep are at far greater risk of suffering from heart disease or stroke than those who get sufficient sleep (between seven and nine hours a night). Those who get less than six hours on average a night are also at much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The numerous processes that happen when your body is at rest are crucial to repairing damage and maintaining balance. Take those away and you’re left with a body in a constant state of dysfunction and stress. This disequilibrium plants the seed for chronic disease later down the line, making it all the more important to maintain healthy sleeping habits.
How to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Knowing the importance of sleep for adults is one thing, but actually being able to get enough sleep is another. Let’s face it, between long hours, kids, bosses, and stressful news cycles, developing healthy sleep habits for adults can feel impossible.
While it’s easy to blame an overactive mind or external stressors, the truth is you may not be making enough effort to prioritize sleep. Just like any other personal care routine, you need to invest time and effort into maintaining good sleep hygiene.
Here’s how to do it.
Make Your Bedroom Your Sanctuary
The mind is a powerful tool that forms associations and connections with every action and emotion that you experience. When you bring electronics, emails, and conflict into bed with you, your mind will begin to associate your bedroom with these stress factors, making sleep all the more difficult.
Remove Technology from the Bedroom. Ideally, you should start winding down and unplugging at least 1 hour before bedtime.
Leave all technology like your phone and laptop outside of the bedroom. If that’s simply not possible, at least keep it out of reach of your bed. Consider investing in a light-alert alarm clock that mimics the morning sunrise instead of using the alarm on your cell phone.
Protect the energy of your bedroom. Try to think of your bedroom as a sacred space. The last thing you want is for negative and stressful feelings to become subconsciously linked with your bed.
If you’re lying awake with a restless mind, go downstairs and sit on the couch instead of staying awake in bed. Return to your bed only when you feel like you’re ready to doze off.
If you and your partner are having a fight, remove yourselves from the bedroom and hash it out in the living room instead.
Invest In Quality Bedding
If you’re still not convinced of the importance of sleep for adults, consider the average person spends 26 years of their life sleeping. Yet most of us shy away from investing money into improving our sleep. Quality bedding is one purchase worth its weight in gold. With luxurious and affordable bedding emerging on the market, investing in quality bedding is a no-brainer.
A bed with soft sheets and a cloud-like comforter makes it so much easier to drift off into dreamland. Egyptian cotton bedding is known for its durability and silky comfort.
Look for a mattress that suits your specific sleep preferences and positions. Firm mattresses provide better support for back sleepers while softer mattresses are easier on the joints of side sleepers.
Immerse Yourself In Darkness
In the olden days, humans went to sleep with the setting sun and woke up at the crack of dawn. Our bodies are still designed to respond to light to regulate our sleep cycles. Unfortunately, artificial lights and blue light technology can wreak havoc on our internal clocks. Since light exposure at night triggers your body into a waking cycle, creating the space for a dark room actually helps you get more sleep.
An important healthy sleep habit for adults and kids alike is to remove or cover any artificial light in your bedroom from chargers, clocks, or phones. Invest in blackout curtains to block out any light from the street, or just find a comfortable sleep mask to immerse yourself into peaceful darkness.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be surprised to find how much easier it is for your body to naturally relax and let go once you get into bed. No sheep-counting required!