We all know that getting enough sleep feels far better the next day compared to when we don’t get enough sleep, but why exactly is sleep so important?
Sleep is a crucial time for the body and brain to re-set and heal the daily wear-and-tear that we endure due to the natural flow of life. Whether its mental or physical exhaustion that we experience during the day, the body needs time to recover. Sleep is essential for this recovery!
Ideally, we should be aiming for between 6.5 – 8.5 hours of sleep per night. Interestingly, while you probably know that not getting enough sleep is bad for your health, too much sleep has also been shown to be just as unhealthy. Sleeping too much may also be a symptom of depression.
Research shows that those who sleep within the optimal range of 6.5 – 8.5 hours report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and show an increase in daily accomplishments, personal growth, positive interactions with others, as well as a greater sense of purpose in life.
Additionally, having enough sleep is vital for the functioning of our brain activity and our ability to regulate our emotions. This helps to explain why we are much more vulnerable to feeling down, irritable, or insecure when we don’t get enough sleep.
Along with our internal mental well-being, sleep also plays a role in our daily accomplishments. Research shows that students who had an average of around 8 hours of sleep per night reported higher GPAs than students that averaged less than 7 hours of sleep per night. This higher performance may be because sufficient sleep is critical for the brain’s ability to learn and remember information, as well as other important neurological processes. This increase in brain functioning can be beneficial for helping to boost your school, work, and social achievements.
It’s important to note that the relationship between sleep and well-being goes both ways. While insufficient sleep is related to increased anxiety and depression; anxiety and depression can also cause insufficient sleep.
If you find that you have trouble falling asleep at night, consider trying out some of these tips to help improve your sleep:
- Avoid blue light exposure 1.5 – 2 hours before going to bed.
Blue light comes from the screen of most electronics, such as phones, TVs, tablets, and computers. Being exposed to blue light before going to sleep negatively impacts our sleep schedule because it lowers the amount of melatonin production in our brains and, as a result, decreases our total sleep duration as well as the quality of our sleep.
- Avoid alcohol at least 1 hour before going to bed.
Although we may think that alcohol relaxes us and therefore helps us fall sleep, the truth is actually quite the opposite. Research has shown that drinking alcohol within an hour of going to sleep reduces the amount of melatonin produced by our brain by up to 20%. Similar to blue light exposure, the consequences of lower levels of melatonin include a decrease in sleep duration and quality.
- Keep your room between 18 to 20º C while sleeping.
While we sleep, our brain goes through a cycle of 5 stages. The first stage is the lightest level of sleep; and the fifth stage (also known as REM sleep) is the deepest, most restorative level of sleep. Colder room temperatures while sleeping have been shown to increase the amount of time that our brains spend in REM sleep, which helps with boosting our ability to remember things throughout the day as well as regulate our mood.
- Listen to calm, relaxing music before bed.
Turning on your favorite, relaxing playlist before you go to sleep can help wind down your body and calm your mind. Relaxing your body and mind helps to promote a higher quality of sleep.
Blog post by Logan Hedberg, Volunteer
Breus, Michael J. “5 Essential Sleep Tips to Help You Sleep Better Tonight.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 28 June 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/sleep-newzzz/202006/5-essential-sleep-tips-help-you-sleep-better-tonight.
Hamilton, N. A., et al. “Sleep and Psychological Well-Being.” Social Indicators Research, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 9 Aug. 2006, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11205-006-9030-1.
Niet, Gerrit De, et al. “Music‐Assisted Relaxation to Improve Sleep Quality: Meta‐Analysis.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 1 June 2009, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2009.04982.x.
Wong, Mark Lawrence, et al. “The Interplay between Sleep and Mood in Predicting Academic Functioning, Physical Health and Psychological Health: A Longitudinal Study.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Elsevier, Apr. 2013, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S002239991200219X.