For many adults, sleep is the activity that is most craved, and yet is hardly ever fulfilled. Work, phones, papers, children, and Netflix all demand our attention, cutting into our sleep on a nearly nightly basis. Personally, this past week has been a bad sleep week for me. My optimal sleep, that which I need in order for me to function like a normal human being, is 8-10 hours a night. But for the last few days, I’ve been getting about 6-7 hours. And it’s definitely taking its toll on me (read: I’m a short-fused zombie).
In fact, cutting back an hour or two on your preferred (and required) amount of sleep for several days causes you to function as if you’ve skipped out on a night or two of sleeping altogether. I know I’m not alone in experiencing this. While adults aged 18-64 need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, 40 percent are getting only 6 hours or less.
So why do we need—and how do we achieve—those elusive optimal hours of sleep? Because while there may be a few super-humans (Beyoncé and Barack Obama to name a few) who can not only function, but be productive members of society on an average of 4-6 hours of sleep per night, I am certainly not one of them. While scientist still don’t conclusively know why we need sleep, what are known are the many benefits of sleep. Read on, darlings, for more information on how to get your sleep and what happens when you do:
Sleep Keeps You Smart And Happy
Getting enough sleep ensures that you have good memory retention, and it also allows your nervous system to work properly. This is bad news for sleep deprived college students, as having a good memory and a quick brain are key to performing your best in an academic setting. Sleep also provides the body and brain time to repair neurons, and even to shut down. Without enough sleep, the neurons don’t behave properly, and we become drowsy and slow in return. A serious lack of sleep has also been connected to depression, and impairs judgement. If nothing else has caught your eye, sleeping the recommended amount will keep you horny. Why? If you lack energy, and are stressed, it results in lower libidos.
It Keeps You Healthy
A lack of sleep will cause your body to release the stress hormone, cortisol, making you short-fused and irritable. If you experience sleep deficiency on a regular basis, then it can have serious effects on the body. Your immune system may change, resulting in your likelihood to get sick more often. You are also likely to develop high blood pressure and become diabetic, as a lack of sleep causes your body to react to insulin in a different way.
Beauty Sleep Is A Real Thing
It’s not only during pregnancy when people glow. Sleep allows the body to pump plenty of blood to your face, giving you a natural glow. The hormone cortisol not only makes you stressed out and anxious, but it also prevents collagen to work properly. And collagen is pretty important: it’s the protein that essentially holds the body together, and keeps it smooth. So by breaking it down, your skin appears saggy and wrinkly. Oh, and have you ever woken up with puffy eyes? That’s because of a lack of sleep, too. Your body retains fluids around the eyes when you don’t get enough shut-eye, resulting in puffiness.
How To Get Enough Sleep
Go to bed at the same time every night. It doesn’t have to be on the minute, but do try to go to bed (and wake up) within the same hour per night and per day. To attain this, try setting an alarm for when you should go to bed.
Be active. Doing at least two and half hours of exercise per week will improve the quality of your sleep. It’ll also make you less sleepy during the day.
No screen time at least an hour before bed. Step away from the phone and laptop. The light from your smartphone slows down the bodies ability to produce melatonin, which is essential to a restful night’s sleep. By giving an hour between screen time and bed, you are providing time for your body to prepare for sleep.
Keeping your bed as a place just for sleep (and sex) is key. If you also read, watch TV, paint your nails, and go on your laptop in bed, both your mind and body will disassociate your physical bed as a place for rest.
Keep theses tips and information in mind, the next time you are wondering if you should watch that next episode of Orange Is The New Black at 1:00 a.m. The show will always be there, but the night won’t. Now excuse me, it’s time for me to catch up on some much needed sleep.
Sweet dreams, darlings!