Sleep is a vitally important physiological function, if we spend a long time without sleep, our brain begins to function poorly: all our cognitive functions, in addition to memory and our state of mind, are altered by lack of sleep. If the time without sleep exceeds several days we can suffer hallucinations and the different systems and organs of our body can stop working properly.
While we sleep, the body performs different important tasks for the proper functioning of the body, such as tissue repair, the creation of immune system cells and the elaboration of our memories… Etc. In short, it prepares the body to face the next day with vitality.
However, despite the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, we are still not making it a priority. As demonstrated by the fact that more than half of the adult population has problems falling asleep or sleeping the necessary hours.
It is essential to maintain good sleep hygiene for our physical and mental health; however, getting enough sleep and achieving good quality sleep are sometimes difficult tasks with the pace and habits of modern life. In this article we help you improve the quality of your sleep, explaining the importance of getting a good night’s sleep and listing the healthiest sleep guidelines and routines.
The importance of good sleep for health
Sleeping is a vital function, if we spend more than 11 days without falling asleep, we die. Our body recovers energy levels, regenerates the cells and tissues of our body and prepares itself mentally and physically to face the next day while we sleep. Therefore, you cannot enjoy good health, both physical and mental, if there is no quality sleep.
If we don’t get the hours of sleep needed to perform all of these tasks, or if our sleep is never fully deep and the brain fails to transition into a relaxed state, the body can experience various health problems. The alterations in our body appear the same day that we do not sleep enough hours: it is more difficult for us to concentrate, control our impulses or perform heavy tasks, we show tiredness and irritability.
And with the time, the longer the lack of sleep lasts, the worse health problems, all the systems of our body are affected, producing both physical and psychological problems, the risk of depression increases and in the long run we can suffer hallucinations and enter psychotic states. Lack of sleep after a while is disabling.
In addition, poor sleep quality can be a risk factor when it comes to developing different pathologies such as: cardiovascular diseases, overweight, type 2 diabetes and some mood disorders, a correlation between poor sleep and the appearance of of anxiety and depression. In addition, not getting enough sleep can affect the health of our bones in the long run, and increase the risk of suffering from different types of cancer.
As we can see, lack of sleep can affect us in the short term by altering our mood. But in the long run it can have serious consequences for our health, including an increase in the mortality rate derived from the risk of suffering from different pathologies. Therefore, it is crucial for our mental and physical health that we get enough sleep and that we do everything possible to adopt healthy sleep habits and maintain proper sleep hygiene.
How many hours of sleep are necessary?
One of the most frequent and most essential questions when we talk about sleep quality is: how many hours do we have to sleep? If we don’t sleep enough hours per schedule, our sleep quality will be deficient and it doesn’t matter to apply other habits and guidelines that help us sleep better. Although, popular knowledge establishes as eight, the hours necessary to face the next day with vitality.
This response is highly variable and depends on each one, other factors also intervene such as daylight hours and the activity we have carried out during the day. Some people will be fine with a 6 hour sleep, while others will need more than 8 to recover from the day. Although, no one knows better than oneself how many hours of sleep one works correctly with, the WHO establishes ranges of recommended hours of sleep depending on the demographic group.
According to the WHO, adults should sleep between 7 and 9 hours every day, although as we have said, this can vary depending on the person and the activity they have. Adolescents (those between the ages of 10 and 17) should sleep 8.5 to 9.5 hours a day. Children ages 5 to 10 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night to help with their mental and physical development. From birth to 3 years, the more hours of sleep are needed for proper development, babies should sleep between 16 and 18 hours every day. For children from 3 to 5 years old, the range of hours of sleep is between 11 and 12 hours.
To start getting enough sleep and avoid the health problems that can result from lack of sleep, each family member should stick to their individual sleep times. Once you get enough sleep, the following habits and guidelines for better sleep will be much more effective..
Sleep hygiene: what habits will help us sleep more and better?
Getting enough sleep is essential to stay healthy, once sleep hours are respected, there are many habits that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep all night. Below we list the most effective ones mentioned by health professionals.
1. Respect sleep schedules
Accustoming the body to regular waking and bedtimes improves sleep hygiene. Our body has to get used to day-to-day routines, in order to better regulate our circadian rhythms. When we have consistent schedules each day, it’s easier to fall asleep, and when we do sleep, the quality is better. If, for example, we sleep more on weekends than during the work week, our body has a hard time adapting and our sleep patterns would not be consistent.
2. Control naps
Naps, if used correctly, are a good tool: they can help catch up on lost sleep. But, they must follow some guidelines: naps should not be taken in the late afternoon, and they should not exceed 30 minutes in length.
3. Practice sport in a moderate way
Doing any type of physical activity during the day helps us sleep better, since we are tired and that makes it easier for us to fall asleep more effectively. However, if we have trouble falling asleep, It is better to avoid doing high-intensity sports in the late afternoonsince the secreted hormones can interfere with the rhythm of sleep.
4. Do not go to sleep with the mobile
Different studies have shown that the use of mobile phones, as well as other electronic devices before going to sleep, are fatal for sleep. The quality of our sleep is significantly affected if we use laptops, tablets, and mobile phones in bed. These devices emit blue light, which makes our brains think it’s daytime, interfering with the natural processes that help us fall asleep.
5. Take care of the space where we sleep
The room where we sleep should not be too hot or too cold., and any noise must be canceled, it is better not to fall asleep with the TV or choose a quiet room. It is very important that the environment in the room does not interfere in any way with our ability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night.
6. Avoid stimulants and toxic
Toxics such as alcohol and tobacco or stimulants such as caffeine interfere with our sleep. In the case of alcohol, even though we think we sleep better or more hours, our body works poorly and all the processes that are carried out during sleep do not come to fruition correctly, so this sleep is not restful. In the case of caffeine, although its effects are different for each person, it is advisable not to abuse it, since it interferes with the substances that we secrete naturally. Some studies suggest that cigarette smoking could interfere with sleep quality.
7. Do not eat heavy
Avoid eating and drinking long before going to bed. Dinner should be light and ideally before 9:00 pm Food consumption gives our body energy, the more food, the more energy, so our body believes that we must be active, making it difficult to fall asleep. Drinking a large amount of water can cause us to get up several times during the night to go to the bathroom.
8. Prepare to go to sleep
Finding an activity that relaxes us to go to sleep, in addition to improving our mood, can help us fall asleep. It is important to remember that watching a YouTube video on your mobile or any activity that involves the use of an electronic device is not relaxing, quite the contrary. We can read or listen to soft music before going to sleep.
Also, relaxing can help us if we stay up all night, if we are trying to sleep and we can’t, it is counterproductive to turn in bed, it is better to get up and do something relaxing before trying to sleep again.