Sleep Is Not a Waste of Time

Did you know that the United States is one of the most sleep-deprived nations on Earth? Researchers estimate that our lack of sleep costs the U.S. $411 billion a year — in lost work days, lower productivity at work, and so on. On average, most adults need around seven or eight hours of sleep. There are people who function well on just four or five hours of sleep, while others may need up to 10 hours of sleep. Your personal sleep needs vary by age, genetics, culture and weather.

Despite everything in our modern society that tends to keep us from our beds, sleep is vitally important. During sleep, a variety of processes take place that restore our bodies and minds, all of which affect our daily functioning and physical and mental health. For example, some scientists believe that sleep deprivation can harm our immune systems, leaving us more prone to illness. We also need sleep in order for our nervous system to function properly – that’s why too little sleep can result in drowsiness and an inability to concentrate. Children and young adults need sleep for proper growth to occur; REM sleep stimulates the brain regions used in learning, in both young and old alike. In fact, while you may think that your brain is going into rest mode when you fall asleep, the opposite is true: During sleep, your brain is responsible for consolidating memories, which builds up your long-term memory.

To ensure adequate sleep, follow these steps, as recommended by the American Sleep Association:

TIP #1: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

TIP #2: Avoid food and drinks that interfere with sleep, especially late in the day, including caffeine and alcohol.

TIP #3: Make sure your mattress is comfortable. Look for a memory foam mattress made of natural materials (not petrochemicals), the best option for a cool sleep.

TIP #4: Exercise regularly and early in the day, preferably before 2 PM.

TIP #5: Set your room temperature to something comfortable but on the cooler side.

TIP #6: Keep smart phones and TVs out of the bedroom.

TIP #7: Have a pre-bedtime routine, such as a bath or shower or deep breathing.

TIP #8: Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible overnight. If you need some lighting for when you get up in the middle of the night, opt for warm (<2700K) subtle lighting that illuminates the floor for safe navigation, while minimizing sleep disruption.