Sleep - Quality vs. Quantity
Will More Sleep Keep Me Healthier?
The answer is "YES!!!". Well, sort of. We all benefit from sleep for some pretty simple reasons. We need sleep to rest so we can reset, rejuvenate and restore the tissues and cells that make up our brains and bodies and return them back to the optimal level of power that will be needed to take on the tasks of the new day that awaits us.
Let's use the computer device analogy. Think of your brain and body as being similar to a computer device --- without properly "shutting down" from time to time, your device won't work at it's optimal performance level. Since the onset of the global pandemic, we have all become extremely reliant on our devices for many of our day-to-day tasks. We need them to be working at an optimal performance level each and every day or we may not be able to perform many of our life's essential tasks like - working from home, school work, zoom meetings with doctors, order groceries, pay bills, streaming Jeopardy reruns (with Alex Trebek) . . . the list goes on and on. You may have noticed that your device performs much more efficiently when you shut it down at the end of the day then restart when you are ready to use it again. The same is true for our brains and bodies.
A good night's sleep is our body's restoration mode, similar to a computer's "shut-down" button. Some people [mostly Europeans] even enjoy/need an afternoon nap ["siesta"] periodically to reboot. I likin a nap to the "restart" button. It will give you that little boost of energy you may need to get you through the remainder of the day.
Science tells us that human beings need sleep each night in order to rest, rejuvenate and restore brain and body function back to an optimal level of power necessary to operate fully for the waking hours of the next day. How Much Sleep Do We Actually Need?
The short answer is 7-8 hours per 24 hour cycle [that's one day in Earthling time]. You maybe thinking, "great, I go to bed at 10 pm sharp every night and wake up at 6 am every morning". Not so fast, tiger! If your brain is currently functioning at an optimal level, you should be able to do some simple mental math to figure out that sleeping from 10 pm to 6 am would give you 8 hours of sleep. You would be correct... if we were calculating the number of hours of bedtime you had. Now, here is where the math gets a little more complicated. Ready? Okay, so you know you had 8 hours of bedtime. Assuming you did not sleep in the bathtub for any portion of the evening, we will use that as a starting point. Now, go ahead and subtract 15 minutes for the amount of time that you laid in bed thinking about whether you locked the front door or not. Then 5 more minutes for getting up to check the front door, which by-the-way was already locked [good job!]. Now, subtract 5 more for starting the coffee maker timer that you actually did forgot to set [brain fart!] . . . I think you get it. The 7-8 hours of sleep is for actual sleep, good quality sleep - eyes are closed, mouth is ajar, drool is coming out . . . etc.
Sleep: Quality vs. Quantity
Most of us are truly unaware of how important sleep is to our vitality and long term health. It really isn't our fault. The medical and pharmaceutical industries have been so hyper-focused on the "bottom-line" by selling us drugs that will mask our symptoms that they really don't have the time to get to the root of our health issues. We just don't have the luxury of waiting for the healthcare system to catch up to our needs as a society. It may be too late for many of us when and if that ever happens, so we will need to rely less on "the system" and more on our own diligence if we are to manage our health optimally for the life we lead.
The reality is that consistently receiving adequate sleep is one of the top 5 contributing behaviors that can greatly lower our risk of developing chronic disease during our lifetime, according to the Center for Disease Control CDC - Sleep and Sleep Disorders - State Fact Sheets. Apart from being unaware, many of us have been programmed to just not care, ie: take-for-granted that, when we lay our heads down to sleep each night we are receiving "sufficient" sleep. Others may care but have not been provided the truth. Most of us have been programmed to ignore or minimize sleep issues until symptoms of a chronic condition arrive. Even then, "poor sleep health" is not generally addressed as a contibuting factor.
10 Ways to Get Better Sleep
Sleep and wake at the same time every day to establish daily rhythms.
UNPLUG! This is becoming harder and harder for a lot of us. Leave your devices at the door. Meaning try not to bring them into your place of sleep. Or at least keep them far enough away so you can't make that one last text, or one last search.
Unplugging also means disconnecting from the digital world an hour before bedtime. Turning off the TV. Putting aside our Smart phone or Smart watch, or any other device that can distract and keep us from engaging in more restful activities.
Have a cup of hot tea.
Reflect on the day. Journal.
Use white sheets. Remember the time you slept so well on those crisp, fresh, white hotel sheets? Well, there is actually science behind it. White is proven to reflect light which may account for a reduced energy flow to your body and a more restful sleep. Another benefit is that they're easy to clean with bleach or organic fabric whitener.
Keep your sleep environment free of clutter. Keeping your living space clean and organized can also help to de-clutter the mind.