Many people design wellness plans with a focus on diet and exercise. While it is important to be active and eat well, it is also just as important to slow down so you can get a good night's sleep. A review of statistics from the National Sleep Foundation finds that 39 percent of the United States' population does not get sufficient sleep on a regular basis. More alarmingly, 37 percent of Americans report that their lack of sleep interferes with their daily activities. Additionally, sleep deprivation has a negative impact on your overall health.
The Benefits of Sleep
If you look across the animal kingdom, you will find that all species engage in sleep. Sleep is a behavior that evolved to provide the body a time to repair and rejuvenate itself from the stress and damage caused to cells during times of wakefulness. When people do not have enough sleep, there are both short-term and long-term negative health consequences.
The following are some of the health benefits associated with sleep:
- Improved Immune Functioning: When people sleep, their immune systems shift into high gear to fight infection. This prevents colds, the flu, and other illness. When people are sleep deprived, they feel run down and are more prone to catching colds.
- Decrease in Skin Damage from UV Radiation: During the summer months, people expose more of their skin to the elements, which includes the strong ultraviolent rays emitted from the sun. This UV radiation causes the skin to become tough and leathery. Additionally, prolonged exposure to UV light can increase a person's risk of developing skin cancer. When a person is asleep, the body repairs some of the damage done to the skin by UV light, which decreases the risk of skin cancer. Additionally, people who get enough sleep at night tend to have fewer wrinkles and healthier looking skin when compare to those who do not get sufficient sleep.
- Increased Memory and Recall: Most people are aware of the difficulty remembering information they have when they do not have enough sleep. The reason is that during certain stages of the sleep cycle, the brain consolidates and processes memories so that they can be easily access during periods of wakefulness.
- Reduced Risk of Obesity: When people sleep, their bodies produce hormones that decrease their appetite. This prevents the overeating that leads to obesity.
How to Have a Good Night's Sleep
Just like many other activities related to health and wellness, people need to establish habits that will promote sleep. When you are having difficulty sleeping, it is best to do whatever is possible to avoid prescription and over the counter sleep medications because of their significant side effects.
Some of the ways you can get a good night's sleep without medications include the following:
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bedtime
- Create a sanctuary in your bedroom free from work and other stressors by not having a computer or television in the room.
- Avoid eating heavy or spice foods for a few hours before bedtime.
- Try deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation if you are tense at bedtime.
If you continue to have difficulty falling asleep, try a sleep aid with L-tryptophan and other natural ingredients, such as melatonin, valerian, and chamomile. These supplements do not have the side effects of the powerful prescription sleep medications. They allow you to get a good night sleep and walk up refreshed so you can enjoy everything that spring and summer has to offer.