“Sleep is the best meditation.” This famous quote by the Dalai Lama highlights the value of slumber on human well-being metaphorically and literally - and in the broadest sense possible. There’s not a single aspect of our health that isn’t influenced by our sleeping patterns.
Here’s why sleep is essential for physical and mental health, how poor sleeping habits affect your daily functioning and long-term health, and how you can sleep better.
Sleep Is Essential for Physical and Mental Health
When asked about the importance of sleep, Dr. Merrill Mitler - who is a sleep expert and neuroscientist at NIH - explained that “Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness, and mood.”
Because sleep affects the body and mind holistically, it has the most beneficial consequences on how we feel, think, and act during the day - or the most harmful ones.
The three most essential aspects of healthy functioning in human beings that are regulated by quality sleep are brain processing, immune system function, and tissue repair. You can feel the benefits of a good night’s sleep on these systems even as a healthy person.
If you’ve woken up refreshed and ready to tackle another day this morning, that’s because you’ve slept well. You’ll likely have a productive day at work, go to the gym, and still have enough energy and be in the mood for socializing afterward.
How Poor Sleeping Habits Affect Your Well-Being
After a night of tossing and turning, we typically experience a day of fatigue. Yawning, sleepiness, and irritability are the most immediate consequences of insufficient sleep, but they worsen with time. Low concentration and trouble with thinking are common, too.
People who experience sleeping problems more regularly face a host of other issues. Poor memory, slowed reaction time, and symptoms of anxiety and depression are frequent, along with a weakened immune system and increased risk of infection.
Common long-term side effects of insufficient sleep include:
- Risk of heart disease,
- High blood pressure,
- Poor immune health,
- Problems with insulin,
- Higher risk of diabetes,
- Weight gain and obesity,
- Problems with cognition,
- Memory consolidation,
- Development problems.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that worldwide every year, about 100 000 road accidents are caused by drowsiness, accounting for over 1500 deaths and over 70,000 injuries. Due to poor balance, physical injuries are also common.
Why Are You Losing Hours of Precious Sleep?
Sleep deficiency and deprivation can happen for several different reasons. For many people, their busy lifestyle followed by overstimulation from electronic devices, caffeine, and late-night snacking is the number one cause of insufficient sleep and poor sleeping habits.
Psychosomatic stressors, anxiety, and depression are just as common, especially in young people who are struggling with the challenges of adulthood for the first time.
Besides poor habits and mental health, chronic pain and various medical conditions can also significantly lower your quality of sleep. Some of the most frequent causes of irregular slumber are sleep apnea, thyroid disorder, restless leg syndrome, and high pressure.
It’s essential to understand the cause of your sleep problems to get the proper treatment. Your doctor can help you with this. Maybe you just need the right type of pillow for your neck pain. But perhaps the problem is more complex and requires special attention.
How You Can Develop Healthier Sleeping Hygiene
Assuming you’re a healthy person, you don’t suffer from back pain, and you don’t have any troubles with anxiety and depression, you can start changing your sleeping pattern as soon as tonight. Establishing a healthy nighttime routine is critical and not very hard to achieve:
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- If you must nap, set the alarm for 30 minutes.
- Sleep in a comfortable bed and dark room.
- Don’t exercise directly before going to bed.
- Eat at least 3 hours before your bedtime.
- Don’t watch TV or use your phone in bed.
If your sleep problems continue, visiting a chiropractor is a good idea. Chiropractic and physiotherapy can help eliminate any chronic pain that stands in the way of quality sleep, but it can also help with insomnia and sleep apnea by recommending the best sleeping position for you.
An uninterrupted 8-hour sleep is a crucial part of recovery if you’re already in therapy for back pain. Try not to underestimate its importance, as it can worsen your issues. Sleeping has an immense restorative and preventative value for people in pain and healthy people alike.